'Fantastic news' as Sunderland councillors back increase in defibrillators

A plan to increase the number of lifesaving defibrillators across Sunderland has won backing from city councillors.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 9:53 am
Councillor Margaret Crosby.

The campaign was brought to a meeting of Sunderland City Council this week, with the local authority’s Liberal Democrat opposition group tabling a motion on the issue.

This included reviewing and where appropriate, increasing provision of automated external defibrillators across all council-owned spaces including parks, community centres, leisure facilities and areas of high public footfall.

Liberal Democrat councillor Margaret Crosby said the motion was inspired by her father who had a rare heart condition.

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The meeting was held at Sunderland Civic Centre.

“I got into the habit of always liking to know where defibrillators were around the city in case my dad needed them,” she said.

Cllr Crosby added the motion aimed to make it easier for people to locate their nearest machine and to use mapping to show any “deficiencies” across the city in terms of access.

During the full council meeting on Wednesday, several councillors shared their personal stories and stressed the importance of defibrillators.

Independent councillor Steven Bewick, who is also a firefighter, said that fire appliances carry defibrillators which can attach to the front of fire stations in Tyne and Wear.

“I have seen first hand defibrillators getting used and they’re a cracking bit of kit and they do save lives,” he said.

Labour councillor Kelly Chequer, cabinet member for Healthy City, also encouraged councillors to support the work of charity Red Sky Foundation which raises funds to support children with heart conditions in the North East.

The foundation helps to support cardiac-related causes in the region – including work that helps babies, children and adults living with heart conditions, along with helping to fundraise for public-access defibrillators.

Conservative councillor Chris Burnicle said the motion meant a “great deal personally” as he had had a cardiac arrest at the age of 16.

The councillor also said he had been working with Red Sky Foundation to support the installation of defibrillators.

Cllr Burnicle added: “My colleagues and I support this motion wholeheartedly and please let it go on record that we have been supporters and contributors to this cause for some time.”

During the meeting, Labour councillor Claire Rowntree, deputy leader of the council, proposed an amendment to the Lib Dem motion.

This aimed to ensure all current and future defibrillators on council-owned land and property are registered with the National Defibrillator Network.

Cabinet member for Healthy City, Cllr Chequer, added this would “ensure easy access to defibrillators for all in an emergency”.

She went on to say: “At the moment, many defibrillators never get used because emergency services don’t know where they are or how to access them.

“This can cost lives and that’s why this infrastructure is so vital, defibrillators are much more likely to be used if they are registered.”

Following the debate and vote, the amended motion was unanimously agreed.

This will see the council bring forward an action plan no later than February 2022 to roll out more defibrillators across Sunderland.

Cllr Crosby said afterwards: “It is fantastic news that this initiative received cross-party support from all city councillors.

“It was very moving to hear personal stories from councillors who had personally experienced medical emergencies and the commitment to supporting defibrillator charities in our communities.”