Stricter rules on life-saving defibrillators may spell trouble for volunteers

One of the defibrillators in Askrigg. The other is on the Holiday Property Bond site.

By Betsy Everett

Fears that more stringent rules governing safety checks on defibrillators in rural areas might cause problems for volunteer “guardians” have been expressed at a Dales parish council meeting.
Council clerk Karen Lynch, who with husband Steve regularly checks the life-saving equipment outside the village hall in Askrigg, said the Yorkshire Ambulance Service are now demanding forms be completed and signed.
“It’s a much more formal arrangement,” Mrs Lynch told Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council.
“When it was first installed we were told the defibrillators needed to be checked occasionally, and they wanted volunteer ‘guardians’ to look after them. We took it on ourselves to check this one every week when we were passing, just to make sure it was working.
“Now they are asking people to fill in a form giving the number of the cabinet, the time and date it’s been checked, and all sorts of information to say that it’s working properly, yet they still want it done voluntarily.”
The ambulance service had stressed they were “not in the blame game,” said Mrs Lynch, but she added that the new procedure involved “a lot of form filling” and raised the question of who was responsible if things went wrong.
“What if the defibrillator malfunctions? Whose responsibility is that? You’re getting into that whole thing of responsibility and it’s a lot for volunteers to take on. The volunteer has to sign it off as being ok, but does it need someone with more expertise? It is worrying.”
Chairman Bruce Fawcett agreed it was too much for one person.
“It’s all very well them saying it isn’t a blame game but once you’ve signed that form you are responsible,” he said.
Mrs Lynch said she and her husband would continue to check the defibrillator, and members supported her in contacting the Yorkshire Ambulance Service to discuss it further.
“We were checking it one day when a responder from Hawes happened to pass by, and noticed something wasn’t quite right with it. It should possibly be someone like a [trained] responder who does it in future,” she said.


  1. Maybe we can add some information? Defibrillators are medical devices and therefore need a full governance package, which includes regular checks. These do not need to be onerous, and many sites simply register the defib on the WebNos Governance system, rather than filling in endless paper trails as requested by some ambulance services. To my knowledge there are no plans to make reporting stricter than it already is, but all defibrillators should be checked weekly anyway, but checks should never be more than a month apart. If Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council wish to contact CHT we can advise the correct and best way to manage their defibrillator.

  2. To be honest we are shocked that records weren’t a requirement from day one. We are lucky to have a defibrillator in the village. It seems obvious any checks need to be recorded. It is not a ‘blame game’ it just ensures the Ambulance Service have accurate information.

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