Great Western Hearts CPR Programme

Inspiring a generation of lifesavers

Great Western Hearts CPR Programme is our training initiative teaching people 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 with Great Western Hearts is for members of our community to have the confidence and skills to deliver early lifesaving interventions.

Around 25% of the missions our Critical Care Team attend are cardiac arrests – where someone’s heart and breathing have stopped. In a situation where someone’s life is in danger, every minute counts. Our crew 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, less than 10% of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive, but receiving early CPR and early defibrillation can improve their chance of survival – which is why we want to members of our community to have the confidence and skills to deliver early lifesaving interventions.

What do we do?

Our Great Western Hearts sessions are delivered by a range of healthcare professionals who are basic life support trained and volunteer to deliver the training to students in secondary schools, community groups and our corporate supporters across our region. The sessions involve a demonstration of DRS-ABC – Danger, Response, Shout, Airway, Breathing, and chest compressions (CPR)- before participants are then given the opportunity to practice the recovery position, CPR and how to use an AED.

In 2023, we visited nearly a quarter of the schools in our region, training over 6,000 school children with these potentially lifesaving skills. Combined with the training we have done with our corporate and community groups as well, this brings the total of people trained to well over 15,000 since the programme's inception in 2016.

Booking a session

If you work for,  or know of a state secondary school or community group who would like to book a session or find out more about the programme, please contact our Public Education Coordinator Carlota, on or call 0303 4444 999.

Volunteering with us

Are you basic life support trained and would like to get involved with delivering the sessions? Visit our Heartstarters Volunteer page to find out more.


In 2018, Great Western Hearts CPR Programme (formerly Great Western Heartstarters) won Voluntary and Community Sector Team of the Year at the Bristol and Bath Health and Care Awards.

“Winning this award is an amazing achievement for our volunteers. It will help us teach lifesaving skills to even more schoolchildren in the region and increase knowledge about the importance of bystander CPR for cardiac arrest.

Our volunteers are healthcare providers or healthcare students from different backgrounds and their knowledge, enthusiasm and dedication sets Great Western Heartstarters apart. I am honoured to receive this award on behalf of such an amazing team.”

- Dr Johannes Von Vopelius

How is it funded?

GWAAC provide the financial and organisational support needed for the running of Great Western Hearts – establishing connections with secondary schools, community groups, and corporate supporters, as well as, maintaining the equipment to deliver the practical sessions.

We are grateful for the generous support from grant-givers who have funded this project, including Beacon Owl Trust. This support is helping develop and expand the project, and reach more people than ever with lifesaving training.

Cathy's Story

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.”

Would you know what to do in the event of a cardiac arrest?

The following video summarises the DRS ABC procedure as well as how to give effective CPR and use a defibrillator.

This video is something we provide to the schools and organisations we teach so that they can keep their skills fresh and still feel confident that they know what to do if they encounter a cardiac arrest. It is designed to be used as a follow-on to a Great Western Hearts CPR Session.