Leicestershire cardiologists’ life-saving mission gains the King’s recognition

Pictured from left: Deputy Lieutenant, Professor Ivan Browne Esq DL, Dr Doug Skehan, Mike Kapur Esq OBE, His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Professor William Toff and Deputy Lieutenant, Col. Richard Hurwood Esq DL.

Two Leicestershire cardiologists who made it their mission to teach every school leaver in the county lifesaving skills have seen their incredible efforts receive the royal seal of approval.

Determined to cut the number of people dying from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, Professor William Toff and Dr Doug Skehan, from the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) NHS Trust, established Heartwize, now a registered charity, in 2014.

Their aim was to ensure that every school leaver in Leicestershire and Rutland receives training in how to recognise and respond to a cardiac arrest – and to provide every secondary school in the county with a defibrillator.

A decade on, Heartwize’s army of volunteers has delivered CPR training to over 50,000 school pupils and provided a defibrillator and a training defibrillator to every secondary in the county.

The feat was recognised this week, when Heartwize received a prestigious King’s Award for Voluntary Service, which was presented to its founders and volunteers by Mike Kapur Esq OBE, His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, at a ceremony at Loughborough College.

The award is the highest a local voluntary group can receive in the UK and is equivalent to an MBE.

Professor Toff, who is Professor of Cardiology at the University, said: “We are delighted and extremely proud that Heartwize has been honoured with the King’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is wonderful recognition of the tireless efforts and commitment of our volunteer trainers, who are the very essence of the programme.”

He added: “There are over 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK. A little over half of these events are witnessed by a bystander and the immediate response of the bystander can be the difference between life and death.

“Currently, less than 8% of those who have a witnessed cardiac arrest will survive the event. We know that with improved bystander responses and increased availability of public access defibrillators, survival could be increased at least three-to-four-fold, saving thousands of lives every year. We are passionately committed to addressing this preventable loss of life.

“That is why we set up the Heartwize programme to teach basic resuscitation skills in schools and in the wider community, to ensure that ultimately everyone knows how to recognise and respond to a cardiac arrest. This is particularly important as 80% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the home, where expert help is not readily available.”

Mike Kapur Esq OBE, His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire, said: “Heartwize aims to create a generation of lifesavers by offering training to schools, businesses and the general public on use of AEDs and CPR, and I am delighted to have presented it with the prestigious King’s Award for Voluntary Service, in recognition of their vital, lifesaving work. I am also thrilled that the presentation of this prestigious award coincided exactly with the tenth anniversary of Heartwize’s launch. The growth of the organisation in the last decade is a testament to not only the hard work of the volunteers and organisers, but a true demonstration of their determination, dedication, and compassion.”

The ceremony was held at Loughborough College on Wednesday 28 February to coincide with a Heartwize training session being delivered by employees from energy technology company, Baker Hughes, whose Druck pressure measurement business is headquartered in Groby, Leicestershire. Baker Hughes is one of the first companies to take advantage of Heartwize’s new mission, to train businesses and other organisations across Leicestershire in CPR skills.

“Some 145 Baker Hughes colleagues have now received training from Heartwize, a wonderful charity that has done incredible work to increase awareness of resuscitation training,” said Gordon Docherty, general manager of Druck, a Baker Hughes business.  “Equipping our employees with the skills to perform CPR and use a defibrillator, while also enabling our volunteers to deliver resuscitation training to local students, will help save lives across our communities.”

Heather Clarke, Acting Principal and CEO of Loughborough College, said: “It is a real honour to celebrate Heartwize’s ten-year anniversary here at Loughborough College and to highlight the incredible work the team do to save lives.

“CPR is a vital skill, and we are so proud to be partnering with Heartwize to expand the breadth of knowledge throughout our College community.”

Dr Skehan, who is a recently retired consultant cardiologist and former head of cardiac services at UHL NHS Trust, said: “We are pleased that we have been able to couple the Award ceremony with a Heartwize training session involving volunteer Heartwize trainers from Baker Hughes.

“By partnering with local businesses to cascade training through the entire workforce, we can greatly increase the scope and reach of the Heartwize programme. We are also able to recruit volunteer trainers from the businesses to train alongside other Heartwize volunteers in local schools and develop links between the businesses and local schools, which may have wider benefits.

“The training session exemplifies the new model that we are planning to take forward, linking Heartwize-trained businesses with local schools to ensure that resuscitation skills training is embedded in the community.

“We even think the company first aiders will be better prepared for a real event by taking on a cascade training routine, which is another win-win aspect to our programme. But we must grow to achieve the full effect of increased public awareness and action to turn more tragedies into triumphs.”