Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and SAS Launch Support Service for People Involved in ‘Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest’

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has partnered with the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Resuscitation Research Group at the University of Edinburgh (RRG) to launch a pilot service on Wednesday 1st November to support those who witness or provide CPR to someone who experiences cardiac arrest at home or in the community.

The Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OCHA) Aftercare project is funded by the Scottish Government and will provide access to support for anyone participating in CPR or witnessing CPR outwith a hospital setting.

It is estimated that between 3,000 and 6,000 Scots are involved in providing CPR after cardiac arrest to members of the public each year. This can be a traumatic experience, which can impact on their wellbeing and result in emotional and social challenges.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has produced wallet-sized cards promoting the service for paramedics, police, and firefighters to give directly to members of the public at the scene of the incident. Each card includes the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Advice Line number, so people can immediately call an advisor to talk through what happened.

Speaking at the launch of the OHCA service, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Chief Executive, Jane-Claire Judson, said: “Every year, thousands of Scots carry out CPR or witness CPR being performed on someone at home or in a public place.  This can be a traumatic experience, and until now there has been little support available.

“We are delighted to be launching this pilot service in partnership with the Scottish Ambulance Service and funded by the Scottish Government. Emergency services staff giving out our advice line cards at the scene of the incident means people can get help immediately, or at whatever point afterwards they feel they need it.”

Steven Short, Programme Lead for Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest for The Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Performing or witnessing potentially life-saving CPR can be a difficult experience to process. The launch of this innovative pilot service means that all individuals who are affected by out-of-hospital cardiac arrest can easily and quickly access support and, if needed, further aftercare.

“Ambulance service clinicians who respond to these cardiac arrests will have the wallet cards to give out on scene. The details on the cards will enable those who need it to access the advice line to talk through what has happened with an advisor and help them process the events.”

Dr Gareth Clegg, Principal Investigator, RRG, University of Edinburgh commented: Attempting to help save the life of a loved one or neighbour by performing CPR or using a public access defibrillator is the right thing to do, but helping out can leave bystanders with questions, and sometimes a need to talk things through.

“This groundbreaking initiative signals a commitment to caring for those who have been willing to step up when someone in their community has suffered an OHCA.”

Lived Experience – Lynsey Duncan

Lynsey Duncan is the Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Deputy Head of Clinical Services. A registered nurse, she lives in Buckie with her husband and two daughters.

In November 2021, Lynsey’s father-in-law John collapsed at home after a cardiac arrest. Lynsey battled for 20 minutes to save his life, performing CPR, before paramedics arrived. Sadly, their efforts were in vain and John, 70, passed away.

As a nurse, Lynsey had been involved in CPR before, but the aftermath of John’s death was different because she’d never had to administer the treatment to a member of her own family. The experience left her upset but she didn’t want to share her feelings with her grieving loved ones.

That’s why Lynsey fully supports the Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Aftercare project. Here she explains why.

“My father-in-law John was a farmer and he’d been diagnosed with farmer’s lung – that’s a respiratory disease caused by exposure to dust from hay, straw and grain. We’d seen a deterioration in his health over a few years, and he and my mother-in-law, Pat, moved from the farm into Buckie, near to where my husband Steven and I and our two girls live.

“We’d been on a family holiday with them two weeks’ earlier, and I noticed John was quite unwell and struggling to breathe. About a week later, he was given oxygen to have at home to help his breathing.

“On that day – it was November 5, 2021 – my girls had friends over for tea. I was busy making food and Steven had taken the dogs for a walk. He called me and told me to get to his mum and dad’s immediately. I knew something was seriously wrong, so I jumped in the car and headed over.

“Pat met me at the front door and told me John had fallen. He was in the bathroom. As soon as I saw him, I knew he hadn’t fallen. I knew he’d collapsed. Pat was on the phone to 999, telling them John had fallen, but I took the phone and explained he had arrested, and we needed help right away.

“I started to perform CPR. I’m a nurse. I’ve done this before. But it’s very different to be doing this to someone you know, someone you’re close to.

“He had been propped up against the toilet. I got him on to the floor and started chest compressions. I spent 20 minutes doing this. And throughout all of this, my mother-in-law was standing watching. It was an awful experience.

“We live in Buckie, which is fairly rural, so the first people to come were the wildcat responders. They are volunteers who are trained to provide early CPR and defibrillation. One of them took over from me as I was exhausted. Then the paramedics arrived and took control.

“My husband had arrived by then, too. I just ran to him and had a bit of a meltdown. I told him not to go through to the bathroom and kept saying to him ‘I tried, I tried’ because I knew John was gone.

“The paramedics worked on John for another 30 minutes, but it was too late. It was horrific for all of us, especially Pat. She kept saying ‘John wouldn’t want this’. She’d said that to me, but I’m a nurse – once I’d started the compressions, I couldn’t stop. And the paramedics were the same. They had to do everything possible.

“We then had to wait for the police to come because obviously this was a sudden death. And it was only when I was speaking to the police about what had happened that the enormity of it hit me.

“I kept going over it in my head, thinking ‘what just happened?’ I had bruises on my hands and cuts on my knees from the force of sitting on the bathroom floor doing CPR for so long. I even lost a toenail because I’d been leaning so heavily on my toes.

“But I couldn’t share any of this with my family because they were grieving. I didn’t want to tell them I was worried I hadn’t done enough. I felt guilty even though I had no reason to.

“That’s why I think this initiative is so important. I’m a trained medical professional, but when a nurse friend called me the next day, I broke down when I told her what had happened. What I really needed was to talk to someone who wasn’t emotionally attached who could reassure me I’d done what I could. And that is hopefully what the Advice Line will be able to do for anyone involved in an out of hospital cardiac arrest.

“I’ll never underestimate what my mother-in-law went through. She wasn’t only witnessing the death of her husband but her daughter-in-law trying to save him. I can only imagine the emotions she was feeling. If the emergency services had been able to give us both a card that said the Advice Line was there for support, I think she might have made that call. That might have been further down the line for Pat, but for me, it would have been immediately.

“Pat and my husband and my sister-in-law are fully supportive of me telling John’s story like this. They had no idea how this had affected me until they watched the video I made. They want to make sure everyone is supported when they need it after an incident like this.”

Anyone wishing to contact the CHSS Advice Line can do so on 0808 801 0899 or at

Posted on 07/11/2023