South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) has won a Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) award for a pioneering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillator communications campaign.
Entitled Defibrillators: A deadly game of hide and seek, it was named best healthcare campaign at the CIPR PRide Awards 2023 in the Anglia, Thames and Chiltern region at an event in Cambridge last week.
The campaign was centred around the launch of new international resuscitation guidelines designed to improve survival from cardiac arrest with a specific focus on automated external defibrillator (AED) signage.
The guidelines were formed following research and recommendations made by Professor Charles Deakin, divisional medical director and resuscitation lead at SCAS, who had warned the public was left playing “a deadly game of hide and seek” when it comes to locating AEDs.
Prof Deakin and his colleagues’ recommendations included ensuring that signs are illuminated at night, visible at all times, identifiable from a distance, that the direction and distance is indicated and that there are annual routine checks of all signage and AEDs.
The communication team at SCAS developed templates and a guidance pack for download on the new international signage guidelines and selected a school – Stowe School in Buckinghamshire – to be the first in the world to implement the new AED signage.
SCAS has a rich history in supporting cardiac arrest and CPR awareness, including launching the first defibrillator finder app ‘Save a Life’, and this campaign was tied in with the annual World Restart a Heart Day event which occurs on 16 October every year.
Alongside press releases on Prof Deakin’s research and the downloadable pack, the project involved a 24-hour ‘CPR-a-thon’ challenge led by South Central Ambulance Charity and US technology company Tanium, which has a UK headquarters in Reading.
Meanwhile, the community engagement and training team at SCAS worked with more than 20 schools across the region to arrange for paramedics and volunteers to teach CPR and defibrillator awareness to students during the week of Restart a Heart Day.
The aim of the combined campaign was to ensure regular communication throughout the year to raise awareness and interest, secure national media coverage and significant social media engagement, raise funds for South Central Ambulance Charity – all with the ultimate goal of increasing out of hospital cardiac arrest survival.
The campaign saw widespread national and international coverage of Prof Deakin and his team’s research and guideline development, live CPR events which involved more than 10,000 people and £12,000 raised for South Central Ambulance Charity to go towards training and equipment following the ‘CPR-a-thon’.
A week-long social media campaign via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube resulted in around 50,000 interactions with members of the public and hundreds of members of the public received CPR and defibrillator training at an event held in the Westquay Shopping Centre in Southampton.
After unveiling Stowe School as the first in the world to introduce the new signage based on international guidelines, SCAS worked with the Resuscitation Council UK, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) and the British Heart Foundation to rollout templates and guidance to more schools.
“While publicly available AEDs have saved countless lives they remain underused, so many individuals who may potentially survive die because a defibrillator is not available to them,” said Prof Deakin, a professor of resuscitation and pre-hospital emergency medicine.
“Therefore, we must continue to break down the barriers to AED use while simultaneously continuing to raise awareness of the importance of CPR and both the guidelines and work such as this wide-ranging campaign is vital to making change.”
The entry was also shortlisted for the CIPR’s Excellence Awards held in London earlier in the year, while it is the second year running SCAS has received a CIPR PRide Award for its work to raise awareness of CPR and AEDs and improve engagement with the public.
Gillian Hodgetts, director of communications, marketing and engagement at SCAS, said: “We are delighted this work has been recognised for its impact and success with such a distinguished industry award. It is a great reflection of the dedication and desire right across SCAS to keep pushing forward with CPR and defibrillator awareness to help save more lives.”
The award win comes ahead of the 2023 World Restart a Heart Day on Monday, 16 October with SCAS hosting a range of events and activities throughout the week which will be publicised shortly online and on social media.