Heartstarters teach CPR to Bristol councillors and a motion is passed to improve defibrillator access - Great Western Air Ambulance Charity
Defibrillator Hall of Fame
February 1, 2023
We’re a finalist, but we need your help!
February 13, 2023

Heartstarters teach CPR to Bristol councillors and a motion is passed to improve defibrillator access

On the morning of 13 December 2022, our Great Western Heartstarters volunteers taught 15 councillors how to do CPR and use a defibrillator at Bristol City Council. It went down a storm with more sessions planned for the New Year and also for North Somerset Council.

The session took place at City Hall and was arranged by Councillor Steve Smith who understands the importance of CPR and defibrillators in the community. It was run by Public Education Coordinator, Carlota Appleby, GWAAC’s Strategic Partnership Manager, Joe Hughes, and five Heartstarters volunteers.

Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC) is delighted to be working with Bristol Council to raise awareness of the importance of CPR and defibrillation and to provide Bristol Councillors with lifesaving skills.

Carlota said, ”It was a privilege to teach 15 councillors how to do CPR and use a defibrillator. The training was well received, and a serious subject was embraced with much positivity. My hopes are that the councillors will help spread the importance of CPR and maybe even teach their friends and family. The council is keen to run some more sessions in the New Year which is great news.”

Councillor Smith is also backing a call for more public access defibrillators to be installed across Bristol. He would like Bristol to follow a similar programme to Swansea — a city that has 459 automated external defibrillators, one of the highest numbers in the country.


Motion passed

As it turned out, Councillor Smith wasn’t the only one to back a call for more defibrillators in the community. On the afternoon of 13 December, 58 out of 58 councillors backed a motion for the council to commit to improving access to defibrillators in Bristol and surrounding areas, and also to educate more people on how to use them and do CPR. 

GWAAC Critical Care Doctor Dr Tim Godfrey, Louise Polledri, mum of former cardiac-arrest patient Sam Polledri, and Heartstarter volunteer Simon Brooks were instrumental in getting the motion passed.


A powerful message, from the heart

Dr Tim, Louise, and Simon delivered powerful speeches in the full council meeting and persuaded councillors to vote in favour of the motion. They eloquently and movingly explained how more public access defibrillators and a knowledge of how to use them, combined with bystander CPR can make for a safer community.

Dr Tim helped paint a picture of how Britain compares to other European countries in terms of survival rates from a cardiac arrest:

“In Great Britain, we have an 8% out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rate. In Norway, that’s 25% and in Holland, it’s 20%. To capture the picture locally, we attended 2,000 incidents in 2021 as Great Western Air Ambulance Charity; a quarter of those were cardiac arrests and 161 were in the city of Bristol.”

Louise then explained the impact that a lack of defibrillators in the community can have on a family. She talked about the death of her “beautiful” 24-year-old son, Sam, on 26 February 2022 at Millennium Square in Bristol. And how Sam’s death might have been avoided had there been an accessible defibrillator in the area. She also spoke about the Sam Polledri Foundation and her quest to prevent other families from going through the same heartache.

Louise told the councillors, “If the AED, that the Sam Polledri Foundation has since installed at Millennium Square — which has already been called upon six times — was there at the time, or if any of the five AEDs surrounding Sam were registered and available to the public, my son would have stood a seven out of 10 chance of survival, not the one in 10 chance he got.”

Hear what Dr Tim had to say in the full council meeting (21.28 mins in) and Louise Polledri (27 mins in).

“This is a massive step towards saving lives.”

Louise said, “We are so grateful for the reaction we received from the councillors. 58 out of 58 councillors unanimously passed the motion. This speaks volumes.

We are all at risk of needing a lifesaving defibrillator and we can all benefit by this motion, in making Bristol a place where our loved ones are better protected. This is a massive step towards saving lives.”

GWAAC has been working with Louise and the Sam Polledri Foundation to raise awareness and push for more defibrillators in the community. We’re hopeful that the motion will have a positive impact on Dr Tim’s sobering statistics:

“Tonight there is a 90% chance that I will tell someone that their loved one has died as a result of an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.”

GWAAC will keep aiming for anyone who suffers a cardiac arrest to receive immediate CPR and defibrillation within five minutes. As a result of this, and other clinical care, there will be fewer avoidable and needless deaths in our communities.


Learn more about our public access defibrillator campaign which provides an all-in-one package to help you place a defibrillator on your building or street.