Ambitious Plan to Increase Cardiac Arrest Survival Launched

Information about the new Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy

An ambitious new strategy to increase survival rates in Scotland from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) which affects over 3000 people each year, has been launched today (Wednesday 24 March 2021). 

The Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy 2021 – 2026 is a five-year plan delivered by a wide ranging partnership including the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Police Scotland, the Scottish Government, Defence Medical Services (Scotland), third sector organisations and the Resuscitation Research Group at the University of Edinburgh.

The strategy's bold objectives are to continue on to equip one million people in Scotland with CPR skills, so that they can act when they witness a cardiac arrest. It also aims to increase bystander CPR rates from 65% to 85% by 2026. Through achieving these objectives we aim to significantly increase survival from OHCA. The strategy also focuses on awareness raising of the importance of Public Access Defibrillation and equitable access to them.

Cardiac arrests are time critical events where the heart stops beating, the person is unconscious and not breathing or breathing abnormally, and CPR should be performed and a defibrillator used, if available. The outcome of that is to give them the best chance of survival.

In order to ensure as many people as possible survive an OHCA, this strategy follows what is known as the ‘Chain of Survival', which describes the crucial elements required to save a life when someone is in cardiac arrest. These elements are: community readiness and early recognition that a cardiac arrest is happening; early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); early defibrillation to restart the heart; timely hospital care, and appropriate aftercare. 

This new plan builds on the original Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy 2015 to 2020. All school-aged children in Scotland will also have the opportunity to be equipped with CPR skills. It also focuses upon key inequalities, public access defibrillator placement, and care of all of those involved with an OHCA.

Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Public Health and Sport welcomed the new strategy and said: "Throughout the last five years, the Save a Life for Scotland (SALFS) partnership has equipped over 640,000 people with CPR skills, and the survival rate after Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy has doubled to one in ten people. This is significant progress, of which we should be proud. It means that we begin this refreshed strategy with a solid foundation on which to continue our work.

"Whilst we rightly celebrate those achievements, there remains more to do. We know from international experience that even higher rates of survival are achievable. We can continue to learn from our international colleagues and apply examples of best practice here in Scotland. Likewise, we can share our experiences of improving bystander CPR rates and survival from Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Stategy to help other countries do the same."

Pauline Howie, Chief Executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, said: "This is a bold and ambitious strategy to ensure we increase the survivability rates of those who go into cardiac arrest in Scotland. Cardiac arrest can affect anyone, of any age at any time or place. Through the strategy, we want to encourage people to feel more comfortable to call 999 and to deliver bystander CPR and defibrillation if witnessing an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and thus increase survival rates."

Lisa MacInnes, Director of the Save a Life for Scotland campaign, said: “The Save a Life for Scotland partners cannot wait to get started on delivering this new strategy. There are many more lives to be saved in Scotland over the next five years. Everyone can be a part of this journey."

Find out more at:

To view the Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest Strategy 2021 – 2026, please visit

Case Study 

Judy Newton’s husband Gregor walked up the stairs in their home in East Lothian around 9pm after lighting the log burner. A few moments later their 11-year-old son Harry yelled for help from upstairs. Gregor had collapsed and his face was blue. Judy rushed up the stairs to help and Harry’s older sister Eilidh called for an ambulance. Gregor was fit and well when he experienced his OHCA.

Judy began CPR. She said: “I knew that I needed to try something and doing the first compressions, hearing his ribs breaking, I didn’t realise I had that much strength in my body. I just did compressions and was praying to everybody.”

Sandy, a first responder arrived quickly after the 999 call and brought the defibrillator to deliver a shock to Gregor, about 45 seconds later Gregor gave a cough and regained consciousness. “And then I kind of knew he was ok when he started to swear profusely,” said Judy. 

From Harry recognising something was wrong and calling for help, Eilidh calling 999, Judy delivering CPR, Sandy arriving with a defibrillator, and the ambulance arriving to take Gregor to hospital, everybody played their part and did it 100%.

“It shows the Chain of Survival is not just some theory, it really does work if everything takes place," said Judy. 

You can find out more about the campaign by visiting

Additional Notes:

Note the difference between heart attacks and cardiac arrests. With a heart attack, the blood flow to the heart muscle is blocked, leaving the person conscious and in pain. A cardiac arrest is when the heart stops beating normally and the person in unconscious, not breathing or not breathing normally.

Chance of survival drops 10% every minute with no CPR or defibrillation is carried out.

Posted on 24/03/2021