A “top-down approach” is needed in the placement of publicly accessible defibrillators (PADs) in Scotland, MSPs have been told.
Dr Gareth Clegg, a senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh’s Resuscitation Research Group, said the current “bottom-up” method is “not working” in Scotland.
Currently, private individuals or businesses can purchase a PAD and allow for it to be used by the public, should it be necessary.
Dr Clegg said his research shows just 5% of all cardiac arrests occur within 100 metres of a PAD.
Speaking before the Public Petitions Committee at Holyrood, he said: “If we took all of the defibrillators in Scotland and spread them out using a data-driven approach … you would cover more than 50% of cardiac arrests.
“What that tells me is the current bottom-up strategy for placing defibs is not working.
“If you allow people just to get defibs and put them wherever they want to, we won’t cover cardiac arrests.”
Dr Clegg was giving evidence on a petition calling on the Scottish Government to ensure new or refurbished buildings of more than 7,500 square metres have a PAD on site.
It was submitted by Inverclyde-based campaigner Kathleen Orr, who lost her 10-year-old son Jayden to cardiac arrest.
Dr Clegg pushed for the Scottish Government to go further and cover the possession and use of PADs in health and safety legislation in the same way as fire extinguishers, ensuring that more people are trained in their use and maintenance.
He said: “I think it’s worth reflecting on the parallels between defibs and vaccines as we begin to think about how we make these things more familiar and available to the public.”
He added: “I think a very strong case could be made for the lifesaving potential of defibrillators being at least equal to that of fire extinguishers.”
MSPs on the committee, chaired by Labour’s Johann Lamont, decided to write to the Scottish Government about the evidence they had heard.