What is Great Western Heartstarters?

Great Western Heartstarters is a training initiative run by Great Western Air Ambulance Charity (GWAAC). It aims to train all children in our region (Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire) how to deliver effective CPR and use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Our aim is for every child in our region to leave school with the confidence and skills needed to deliver early life-saving interventions.

Why do we need you?

We are looking for basic life support trained professionals who are able to volunteer their time to deliver Great Western Heartstarters training sessions in schools across our region.

Our sessions involve a group demonstration and practical exercises based on the DRS-ABC method, including how to use an AED.

Each session is tailored to the length of a school lesson, and can be up to an hour long.

In 2022, our Heartstarters volunteers visited nearly a quarter of the schools in our region, training over 5,500 school children with these potentially lifesaving skills. Combine this with the training they did with our corporate and community groups as well, this brings the total of people trained to well over 10,000 since the programme's inception in 2016. But we don't want to stop there...

Why should you become a Great Western Heartstarter?

  • Help train a new generation of lifesavers ready to spring into action in our local area
  • Develop your training and coaching skills and receive a CPD certificate
  • Improve your own knowledge of CPR and AED use 
  • Demonstrate a commitment to helping others
  • Be part of an innovative and award-winning programme
  • Meet interesting new people who work in similar fields to you
  • The chance to wear your Great Western Heartstarters uniform with pride!


How much time do I need to give?

There is no minimum commitment requirement for our Great Western Heartstarters volunteers – once you have had the initial training session, you are free to attend as many or as few sessions as you can.

You will receive monthly emails with upcoming session dates, so you can sign up to any sessions that suit you. We appreciate any time you can give, even if it’s only one hour a year!

Want to become a Great Western Heartstarter?

If you would like to find out more about the programme, please contact us on info@gwaac.com or call 0303 4444 999.


Send completed forms to carlota.appleby@gwaac.com

Around a third of the missions the GWAAC team attend are cardiac arrests. In a situation where someone’s life is in danger, every minute counts. The GWAAC Critical Care Team can be anywhere within our region within 20 minutes, but the care the patient receives before we get there can play a vital role in their survival. Currently, only 8% of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive, but receiving CPR within the first 2 minutes can double their chance of survival.

We’re working to create a generation of life-savers and you could be part of making this happen!


Cathy Angell - GWAAC Patient

“I suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest at the age of 35 in a semi-rural location. There was no defibrillator there so it was down to my life-saver to perform CPR on me for a considerable amount of time before the rapid responders arrived. The essential skills she learnt saved my life – the air ambulance crew told my family if it wasn’t for the excellent CPR I received then I wouldn’t be here for my son, my husband and my family. It is better to do something than nothing.”

Meet Amber, Student Paramedic at UWE Bristol and Great Western Heartstarter Volunteer

“I started volunteering for GWAAC as a Heartstarter in September 2016 at age 19.

The push that made me want to volunteer was knowing that I would be able to educate others, younger or older, on how to try and save someone’s life. Having the knowledge that I may have helped someone save someone else’s life is extraordinary and the people you share this with have such a positive effect on your performance outside of the project too.

My favourite part about running the training sessions is knowing that the people that you are teaching will go home and tell their families what they have learnt. Hopefully the training session will last with them for a long time and encourage the pupils or the public to either volunteer for GWAAC or join the Ambulance Service.

Being part of Great Western Heartstarters has made me gain more confidence with my university work, speaking in public and honestly being a better person knowing that I have done something to help someone else.“