A report released on February 19th by professors at the University of Southampton stated that there are only 278 locations in Hampshire with public-access defibrillators. The most common location to find them is in shopping centres and other commercial buildings, although some nursing homes also have them equipped.
Where they do exist, it appears that they are rarely used or understood. Looking at 999 calls during the study period, there were 44 instances where callers reported that they were aware of an AED in the vicinity, but these were only used in 18 of these cases. It's likely that many people are cautious of using them out of fear that they may cause further harm to somebody who needs it - indicating a real need for more education around these devices.
Professor Charles D. Deakin, who carried out the report with others at the university, said the results would likely be similar across the UK and echoed speculation about the causes, stressing AEDs are "safe and effective when used by members of the public even with minimal or no first aid training''.
AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator. The device is designed to diagnose heart conditions and apply an electrical pulse to the heart. It is usually used when a person's heart has fallen out of rhythm (known as arrhythmia) or has gone into cardiac arrest.
While hospitals and ambulances are obviously equipped with very sophisticated defibrillation technology to manage such an event, the AED is designed to be used by the layperson, and as such is an essential piece of kit in public spaces or anywhere where it may take emergency services too long to reach the patient.