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Freemen Play Key Role In Launch Of Life-Saving Medical Network

28th Jul 2020
Freemen Play Key Role In Launch Of Life-Saving Medical Network
A major project to site a string of life-saving medical equipment in busy thoroughfares across the north east, has been officially launched in Durham’s Market Place by the city’s M.P. Mary Kelly Foy.


At the start of this year three Rotary Clubs - Durham Bede, Durham and Durham Elvet – secured permission and funds to give the public 24-hour-a-day access to Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in the Market Place and on Palace Green fronting Durham Cathedral.

The trio set themselves a target of £5,000 and reached their goal with a crucial £800 gift from the city’s freemen, alongside other key contributions from the Shakespeare Temperance Trust and the Durham Area Action Partnership. The project was due to be launched in March but was put on hold by the coronavirus outbreak.

But, in the vacuum created by the national lockdown, the region’s 54 rotary clubs took the opportunity to develop more wide-ranging proposals, costing tens of thousands of pounds. Their plan will give members of the public access to scores of machines – each with a proven nation-wide record of saving lives – across an area stretching from the Scottish Borders in the north, to the North Yorkshire border in the south and the Pennines to the west.

Tom Sharples Lead for Durham City Defibrillator Project, Mary Kelly Foy MP for Durham City, 
Barbara Broadbelt Rotary North East Governor

The Market Place machine went “live” on Friday, July 31st and its’ twin on Palace Green is expected to be up and running within weeks. Rotarians hope to add up to 100 installations to the existing North East Ambulance Service regional network by the end of next year. Each of the self-contained units gives the public access to a machine - along with simple operating instructions - to deliver a high energy electric shock to victims in the immediate aftermath of a cardiac arrest.

Spokesman Tom Sharples said each rotary club was committed to improving the lives of everyone in their local communities and the latest proposals provided the opportunity for the region’s 54 clubs to unite in a common cause.

“The first two defibrillators, in the Market Place and on the approach to Durham Cathedral, are important and well-known thoroughfares used by many tens of thousands of local people and visitors to the city during the course of a year. Other sites identified within the regional network will also be positioned in similarly busy areas.

“UK NHS ambulances are targeted to reach people who have suffered a cardiac arrest in eight minutes and the defibrillators are the key to improving survival. An electric shock delivered within three to five minutes of a cardiac arrest improves survival odds between fifty and eighty per cent. This project has the potential for saving many lives,” said Mr Sharples.

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s charitable trust, said: “We were pleased to offer our support to Rotary’s very laudable Durham City initiative which provides a vital facility for both our community and visitors to our city. We are doubly delighted that during lockdown the same life-saving opportunity will soon be available to a great many more people across the region.”