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Best Pull Through
West Midlands Ambulance Service
Agency: drpvideo

Cardiac arrest, where the heart simply stops, kills more than 22,000 people under the age of 75 every year in the UK. West Midlands Ambulance Service recognises that using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an automated external defibrillator, which shocks the heart back into normal rhythm, gives patients the best chance of survival.

The ambulance service embarked on a PR and awareness campaign to promote the effectiveness of defibrillators. It spoke directly to local sports clubs, but soon realised that there was resistance to installing defibrillators, partly due to concerns at how easy they were to use and also their effectiveness. Just 17 per cent had defibrillators on-site.

West Midlands Ambulance Service believed that a compelling film, featuring a real story, could demonstrate how easy defibrillators are to use while highlighting their impact in a life or death situation. drpvideo created a documentary style film featuring Ian Hough, a 56-year-old from Stourport, West Midlands, who suffered a cardiac arrest during his rowing club’s annual regatta in 2011. He was in the middle of rowing a race. He was dead for seven minutes.

A defibrillator saved his life: the club did not have one, but had hired a medical service for the event. The film drew on eye witness accounts from Hough’s family, who were watching the regatta, and friends in the rowing club, including those in the boat when he collapsed. It was shot at the Stourport-on-Severn Rowing Club, and members recreated the scenes.

The film, which was first shown to front line West Midlands Ambulance crew, was used as the centre piece of a pro-active PR campaign, which launched on 2 September. Hough was available for interviews. The campaign received television and radio coverage, including BBC Midlands and Sky News Sunrise.

Since the film’s launch in September 2015, the number of sports clubs in West Midlands with a defibrillator has risen. The most up-to-date figures suggest 39 per cent now have a defibrillator and several, including Dudley Watersports Centre, directly link this to the film. West Midlands Ambulance Service is now in talks with the NHS to launch a nationwide campaign, using Pull Through as support.

The judges described the film as ‘powerful’, adding that it carried a ‘clear call to action’. ‘It was a brave approach that punched above its weight,’ they said.