Hitchin defibrillator scheme still going strong - 16 years after first AED

The Essex & Herts Air Ambulance charity have installed a public access defibrillator outside their s

The Essex & Herts Air Ambulance charity have installed a public access defibrillator outside their shop in Hitchin's Churchgate. Picture: EHAAT - Credit: Archant

The Hitchin Automated External Defibrillation Scheme is still going strong – 16 years after purchasing its first public access defibrillator for the town centre.

The scheme was set up with the support of health and beauty chain Boots and raised money within the town to buy the life-saving equipment to be placed outside the Boots store.

Now, the town has eight defibrillators which can be access by members of the public should somebody go into cardiac arrest.

The scheme was initially linked with the East of England Ambulance Service to provide a pager system which alerted 12 trained volunteers in the event of a cardiac arrest.

This continued for three years until the Community First Responders Scheme became a nationwide initiative. Hitchin continues to have an active Community First Responders Scheme, but is not directly linked with the Hitchin AED Scheme.

Health and fitness consultant Maggie Hackney said: “This initiative was the result of an idea from a few friends who thought it might be a good idea to have a defibrillator in the town centre.

“I was approached to take part in a pilot training course about 17 years ago which would enable fitness instructors to deliver exercise for individuals who needed cardiac rehabilitation.

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“After successful completion we were advised to consider purchasing a defibrillator for this special group. Hitchin firefighters helped me raise money for one and suggested we have one in the town centre – which they also helped me fund.

“The Hitchin scheme is very different for a number of reasons. We were certainly one of the first in the UK and we are funded entirely on monies raised in this community.”

Working alongside the AED scheme is a team of volunteers who have been delivering heart start training – a British Heart Foundation initiative – to anyone who lives or works in Hitchin over the last decade.

The town’s defibrillator sites are at Hitchin Priory and Conference Centre, Tilehouse Street dental clinic, Hermitage Road Bar & Restaurant, Vernon Dental Practice, Boots, Hitchin Initiative, St Mary’s Church and Christchurch. The latest defibrillator to be installed in the town was outside the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance shop in Churchgate in August.