In 2003 the Westfield Health Charitable Trust made a decision as to how they could reward companies that paid into their health benefits scheme. Chairman Graham Moore didn’t want to give out plaques or carriage clocks that would just gather dust. He wanted to give something more vital than that.
Through liaison with David Smith who was in charge of the defibrillator programme at South Yorkshire Ambulance Service (which became Yorkshire Ambulance Service in 2006) they landed on the idea of providing Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to these companies, and a long running project was born.
An AED is a machine which can help to restart a patient’s heart if they have a cardiac arrest and the heart stops functioning. It is the patient’s only chance of survival and the sooner it is used the better chance they have. Therefore having them in workplaces and all public venues is crucial to improving survival rates. They are easy to use and make all the decisions for the operator. The operator cannot do anything wrong to harm the person they’re helping, so anyone can use one. Graham always jokes at presentations that Westfield are giving a gift they don’t actually ever wish to be used.
But when they are used they can make all the difference. Over the past 13 years Westfield Health have donated 117 AEDs to workplaces, community centres, schools, visitor attractions, churches and sports venues, always in partnership with Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS). The donations have been wide-ranging geographically as well, with placements across the whole of South Yorkshire, into Derbyshire and also North Yorkshire.
And the project has been a success in the best way possible. At least four lives are known to have been saved as a direct result of these installations. Three of them at the same venue: Hillsborough Leisure Centre! They were Mike Higginbottom in 2011, and Martin Fox and Ronnie Davis in the same week in December 2012. More recently Ellen Hallas was saved with the AED at Kostal Limited in Goldthorpe, Rotherham, which was an AED part-funded by the British Heart Foundation as part of their Rotherham Hearttown Project to improve heart health in Rotherham. Amazingly Ellen was saved by her daughter Rachel who also works at the site along with other co-workers, and even more amazingly Rachel is a volunteer Community First Responder with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service in her spare time!
Other notable projects have included the Heart of Sheffield project to mark 10 years of Westfield Health’s AED donations, and currently underway is the ♡ Your Community Project, another one connected with the Rotherham Hearttown which is seeing 15 Community Public Access Defibrillators installed in Rotherham, five of them part funded by Westfield Health.
Emma Scott is a Community Defibrillation Officer with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.