Co-ops working at the heart of their communities

Defibrillators can mean the difference between life and death for heart attack victims. That is why co-operative retailers are using their position at the heart of communities to...

Defibrillators can mean the difference between life and death for heart attack victims. That is why co-operative retailers are using their position at the heart of communities to help provide access to them.

A defibrillator uses an electric shock to restart the heart during cardiac arrest, and can increase the chance of survival by 50%. Acting quickly is crucial – every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces the survival rate by 10% – and the Community Heartbeat Trust recommends that communities more than five minutes from an ambulance station keep their own defibrillator for public access. And that is where co-ops can help.

One of the trailblazers in this field is Scotmid Co-operative. Last month it won the retail business of the year category at Hand on Heart’s UK Heart Safe Awards 2014, for being the first UK retailer to install defibrillators in a large number of its stores.

It has been working with the Scottish Ambulance Service since 2011 to bring defibrillators to the communities that need them most, such as remote areas and places of high cardiac arrest. It has installed them in more than 40 locations across Scotland and the north of England, and trained over 250 staff to use them.

Kath Parr (left) presents the Heart Safe Award to Laura Paterson and Malcolm Brown of Scotmid Co-operative
Kath Parr (left) presents the Heart Safe Award to Laura Paterson and Malcolm Brown of Scotmid Co-operative

Laura Paterson, Scotmid’s membership and community officer, manages the defibrillator project. She said: “Over the last few years, there’s been a great deal of work put into ensuring our defibrillators are in the best possible locations and that Scotmid staff are comfortable using them.

“We’ve had amazing support from the Scottish and North East Ambulance Services and also from our staff, who’ve really embraced the defibrillators as valuable resources for their communities. This recognition from the UK Heart Safe Awards is a real boost to our project and will help strengthen its importance both inside and outside of Scotmid.”

Also at the forefront of provision is East of England Co-operative. A quarter of a million people living in harder to reach communities across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex are within four minutes of a defibrillator thanks to its £250,000 Every Minute Counts campaign.

The society is working alongside East of England Ambulance Service to identify the communities that will benefit most from having a defibrillator. Working with local groups, it has installed 65 units, and plans to bring that to 100 by the end of the year.

Events at each location helped residents and workers engage with the project, with the ambulance service demonstrating use of the equipment. The campaign earned East of England Co-op the community involvement award at the 2013 East Anglian Daily Times Business Awards.

In Staffordshire, Tamworth Co-operative Society has linked up with Kingsbury Parish Council to provide defibrillators at two stores after Heartbeat UK donated two defibrillators to the parish council.

The machines were installed at Tamworth Co-op convenience stores in Kingsbury and Wood End. They are designed to be easy to operate and include pre-recorded instructions, but West Midlands Ambulance Service is training up to 12 staff and members at each site to use them.

Tamworth Co-op chief executive Julian Coles said: “These vital machines have turned two of our convenience stores into potentially life-saving locations.”

Bishops Itchington and Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, have each benefited from £500 from the Heart of England Co-operative Society to kickstart installation of their defibrillators.

Alison Biddle, clerk to Bishops Itchington Parish Council, said ambulance crews could not reach the village within their eight-minute target. She said: “The first few minutes are critical and having a defibrillator in the community can potentially save lives.”

Other societies which have installed defibrillators include the Co-operative Group and Lincolnshire Co-operative.

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