Automated External Defibrillators (Housing Developments) Debate

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Automated External Defibrillators (Housing Developments)

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts

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Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the provision of automated external defibrillators in all new housing developments of ten dwellings or more; to require developers to provide funding for the maintenance of such defibrillators for a period of ten years after installation; and for connected purposes.

My Bill aims to increase the number of automated external defibrillators by ensuring that, in future, they are an essential feature of every new housing development. That is a vital step in our endeavour to increase cardiac arrest survival rates. Crucially, my Bill also requires funding for the continued maintenance of defibrillators. First, I will outline the scope of my Bill and its links to important debates that the Commons has had on defibrillators. Secondly, I will highlight the scientific evidence from around the world that overwhelmingly supports the introduction of my Bill, and I will present the important argument for a maintenance provision in the Bill.

I am grateful to Dave Bowling, a community first responder in my constituency, for providing the inspiration for the Bill, which, as this speech will demonstrate, has the potential to save many lives. The powerful benefits of defibrillators have already been highlighted in Parliament. My Bill follows the 2018 Defibrillators (Availability) Bill, brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), and the 2023 Automated External Defibrillators (Public Access) Bill brought forward by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). Additionally, the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare) recently led an important debate on public access to defibrillators, and a sponsor of my Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), has been advocating for greater uptake of AEDs through his leadership of the all-party parliamentary group on defibrillators. I also note with appreciation that the Leader of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), was the first MP to call for all MPs to complete defibrillator training. Such discussions and endorsements in Parliament are of great value in increasing public awareness of defibrillators.

I acknowledge the very positive steps that have been taken to provide defibrillators in every school and on our high streets, and the funding that the Prime Minister mentioned earlier, but the Bill targets an area that is yet to be addressed: private residential homes. It is crucial to note that in the UK, most out-of-hospital cardiac arrests—70%, according to the Resuscitation Council UK—occur in the home. However, when I looked at my constituency and others on the “Defib finder” website, it was apparent that defibrillators are predominantly installed in non-residential areas. That is a problem. In Sweden, researchers have found that a person is three times more likely to survive a cardiac arrest in public than at home. That statistic could be mirrored in the UK, which is why I am calling for a legal requirement to ensure that all new housing developments have a defibrillator—an essential piece of life-saving equipment.

When cardiac arrests happen, it is crucial that a defibrillator be nearby. According to a study by Sarkisian et al., the survival rate for cardiac arrests decreases by 10% for every additional 100 metres between the patient and the defib. It is therefore concerning that, according to a recent study by Burgoine et al.—many Members will have read about it in the papers last week—the median distance of a publicly accessible defibrillator from any given postcode in Great Britain is 726 metres.

When someone has a cardiac arrest, their heart stops, and it is a race against time to ensure that oxygen continues to travel to their brain. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation—chest compressions with rescue breaths—is essential for maintaining the flow of blood and oxygen during this time. However, the use of a defibrillator is the only method that can seriously improve survival rates, by shocking the heart and causing it to resume its normal rhythm. That restores the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. If a defibrillator is used before an ambulance arrives, survival rates from cardiac arrest increase from less than 10% to more than 70%.

Given that there are 60,000 cardiac arrests in the UK every year, it is crystal clear that my Bill is necessary to increase the number of defibrillators in private residential areas, and I hope that this will not be a controversial issue for the House. Some may suggest that the Bill will impose an additional financial burden on housing developers, but the cost of a defibrillator is small in relation to the entire budget of a housing project: just over £1,000. The Bill will also empower residents to learn about defibrillators, and to know where they are and how to use them. Everyone should know what a defibrillator is and, hopefully, where to find one.

The second part of my Bill requires developers to provide funding for these new defibrillators for 10 years after their installation. If defibrillators are to work and to save lives, they must be maintained. So what maintenance is required? First, there must be an electricity supply to maintain the temperature of the defibrillator; this protects the battery life of the device. Secondly, batteries need to be replaced after four to six years. Replacement batteries typically cost just £300. Thirdly, electrode pads need to be replaced after two years. Five replacement pads cost only £360. As for who would carry out the maintenance, I believe that a number of organisations would be well placed to visit each defibrillator in an area once every two years for that purpose—for example, the fire service; the first responder network, including the local ambulance service; or even, perhaps, the local authority. Funding for the maintenance could well be achieved through a section 106 agreement between housing developers and local authorities.

My Bill has two important aspects: the provision of a defibrillator in every new housing development consisting of more than 10 dwellings, and the provision of 10 years’ maintenance funding, all for an additional cost of about £2,500, or £250 per property. That is a small price to pay for immediate access to a lifesaving defibrillator. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly emphasises the impact that the Bill could have, and I hope that the House recognises that and decides to take action to improve cardiac arrest survival rates.

Let me end with Dave Bowling’s call to action: “defibrillation for the nation”.

Question put and agreed to.


That Stephen Metcalfe, Anna Firth, Mr Mark Francois, Jackie Doyle-Price, Carol Monaghan, Jonathan Gullis, Sir Chris Bryant and Giles Watling present the Bill.

Stephen Metcalfe accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 360).