Rise in successful resuscitations from cardiac arrest

 Monday 16 October 2017

‘World class’results for Scotland show innovative new approaches are working.

There has been a rise in the number of people who are being successfully resuscitated following a cardiac arrest in Scotland according to new figures.

Latest Scottish Ambulance Service statistics show that, on average, 66 per cent of patients suffering a witnessed cardiac arrest by ambulance crews were successfully resuscitated and alive on arrival at hospital over the last six months.

The figures, released ahead of this year’s ‘Restart a Heart Day’, follow a number of innovative new approaches brought in by the Scottish Ambulance Service over the last year.

Patients with Immediately Life Threatening conditions such as cardiac arrests are now being identified earlier in the call process, ambulances being dispatched more quickly, and people being treated more rapidly. This builds on previous improvement initiatives such as Resuscitation masterclasses, the introduction of new CPR technology and crucially, sending two ambulances to each cardiac arrest wherever possible.

In addition, where available, the Service is now sending a Resuscitation Rapid Response Unit (‘3RU’) in support, kitted out with the very latest equipment and a specially trained team of paramedics on-board who are experts in cardiac care.

As part of Scotland’s unique National Strategy to improve Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest survival rates and through the Save a Life Scotland campaign, an additional 500,000 people across Scotland are being trained in CPR by 2020 and over 1,000 new public access defibrillators have been registered with the Scottish Ambulance Service. A network of over 1,300 community first responder, co-responder teams and other partners have also been established, trained to treat patients if they are first on scene.

The Scottish Ambulance Service believes the innovative approaches being taken through its new models of care are making a significant contribution to saving an additional 300 lives per year and up to 1000 lives by 2020.

Paul Gowens, Lead Consultant Paramedic for the Scottish Ambulance Service said:

“These are fantastic results for Scotland, putting us up there with the best you’ll see anywhere in the world. We are a country with unique challenges, responding to calls in not just urban, but remote and island communities too and these figures are world class.

“We know that the sooner people get treatment after a sudden cardiac arrest can mean the difference between life and death and we’ve implemented a number of innovative approaches over the last couple of years to prioritise patients with immediately life threatening conditions in an effort to save more lives.

“Cardiac arrests are now being identified earlier in the 999 call process, ambulances being dispatched more quickly, and people being treated more rapidly. Where available, we’re also dispatching our Resuscitation Rapid Response Unit (‘3RU’) in support, kitted out with the very latest equipment and a specially trained team of paramedics on-board who are experts in cardiac care in a growing number of parts of the country.

“We will, of course, continue to monitor the results we are getting, but these early results are a credit to the hard work, talent and professionalism of our staff. The new approaches we are taking are making a huge contribution to achieving our aim of saving an additional 300 lives per year.”

Gerry Brown, a Paramedic based at Vale of Leven Ambulance Station who recently successfully resuscitated four cardiac arrest patients in a row in the space of one week, said:

“This is really positive news. Cardiac arrests are amongst the most difficult call outs to respond to and with the life of the patient in your hands, every second counts. It is vital we get to anyone suffering a cardiac arrest as quickly as possible and getting ‘hands on’ with the patient early is so important.

“The training, new equipment and support we are getting as paramedics in responding to calls is helping to save lives but my message to the public is that they can play their part too.

“For every minute that a patient doesn’t receive CPR, their chances of survival drop by 10 per cent.

“In the recent cases we responded to, I was on scene within minutes, but what was so important was that family members or members of the public had already begun administering CPR in those vital minutes until I arrived.

“As part of this year’s Restart a Heart Day I’d urge members of the public to go out and learn CPR. With their help, we can further improve upon the results we are seeing and save even more lives across Scotland.”


The median response time in Scotland for a cardiac related (Immediately Life Threatening) 999 call is currently 5.44 minutes.

Latest statistics, reflecting the international comparator measure, for the last six months showing performance where a patient is in VF and witnessed by Scottish Ambulance Service staff:

Return Of Spontaneous Circulation following emergency medical services witnessed cardiac arrest:

Presenting Rhythm: VF/VT

April  47%
May 66%
June 82%
July 66%
Aug 75%
September 62%

For those cases where a patient goes into cardiac arrest before a crew arrives and can be defibrillated, 54.5 % of patients were successfully resuscitated and alive on arrival. This has increased from 27.5% of patients in 2012.

Scotland has led the way in bringing the “it takes a system to save a life” concept, which has proven so successful in Seattle through Medic One and in Europe through the Lugano Resuscitation Academy, to the UK.  Scotland hosted the first ever Resuscitation Academy in the UK in 2016 with delegates attending from across the globe. A second Resuscitation Academy was hosted in Scotland last month.

Later this month Dr James Ward, Scottish Ambulance Service medical director, will share Scotland’s story during a visit to Denmark’s inaugural Resuscitation Academy.