Frequently Asked Questions

We have had a several questions and comments and we thought more people may like to see those questions and answers. If you have a question, please email us via our contact page.

What area do you cover?

We run courses in Newbury, Donnington, Greenham, Bucklebury, Aldermaston, Woolhampton, Cold Ash and other parts of West Berkshire and anyone from anywhere is welcome to attend any of our courses, so long as there is space. Infact we should have called ourselves by a different name, Heartstart Thatcham and area, Heartstart Newbury and area or perhaps better Heartstart West Berkshire rather than Heartstart Thatcham!

Is Heartstart Thatcham only for Thatcham residents?

No. Anyone can come along and be trained, it doesn't matter where you are from. We have had people from Andover, Newbury, Reading, Basingstoke, Cold Ash, Donnington and many other areas.

How much does it cost?

All the training we offer is FREE. We do ask for donations to help cover ongoing costs (venue hire, equipment repair, and so on).

How do I become an instructor?

To become an instructor you must first have come on one of our Heartstart courses and have passed. This will let you see what we do and ensure you are happy to go further. Then talk to one of our instructors and we will discuss further. To become an instructor you will be required to attend a further training day, will have to have a CRB (now DBS) check undertaken and will be expected to be able to attend one session every three months. All of this is voluntary, i.e. there is no pay what so ever. 

Do I need to book?

Yes. Space is limited and we need to ensure we have staff and materials to cover each event, hence you must book. Please email us via our contact page.

Do you have a phone number?

Yes. The number is 0 7 8 1 0 1 4 5 6 9 0. If we do not answer leave your name, number and a short message and someone will get back to you. We all have full time jobs so it may be a day or two before we get back to you. 

Have attendees used thier skills?

Yes. We have had some use their CPR skills, some recovery position and some recognising heart attacks. The skills have been used and they have saved lives.

What is Heartstart?

It is a scheme to train people, the public in this case, Emergency Life Support (ELS) skills. It is free, takes only two hours and provides practical hands-on learning.

Are you not just an extension of the Bitish Heart Foundation?

No. Heartstart is a British Heart Foundation initiative which teaches people what to do in a life-threatening emergency – simple skills that save lives. Heartstart community schemes operate independently and provide free Emergency Life Support training in their local community. The Heartstart course is free, takes only two hours and provides practical hands-on learning.

In other words, we are affiliated to the British Heart Foundation, but operate (including funding) on our own.

Are there any age restrictions?

Yes. For legal and other reasons the following restrictions apply to the public training sessions:

  1. You must be 10 years or older to take the course.
  2. If you are under 18 you must be accompanied by an adult.

In the latter case the adult may sit and watch, quietly, or preferably take the course as well.

I am about to do First Aid training with XYZ, is your training different?

Without knowing the course, company, and so on we cannot say. Typically a First Aid at Work course will cover everything that you will learn with us, and more besides. If you want to know what we cover, look at our course page. If you are not sure, come anyway, it is free and getting the training twice gives you more experience and confidence.

How long does the course last?

The full course last about 2 1/2 hours. There is a shorter 1 hour course. See our courses page to learn the difference.

How can a short course make a difference?

Many ask why a short course, why not a full day or longer course and how can what we cover make a difference? Two hours gives people a taste and are more likely to do that then a longer course, at least initially. A longer course would require different staffing and could not easily be offered for free. Within the two hours we cover:

  • Priorities/the conscious casualty
  • The unconscious casualty
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Suspected heart attack
  • Choking

To see exactly what is covered see our course page.  These topics give you the basic skills to cope until professional help arrives.  It may be giving CPR, immobilising a casualty or recognising the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack. There is far more that you can learn, our aim is to equip as many people as possible with the basic skills that are needed to save a life. If you then want to take your skills further you can.

What are the physical requirements?

It is preferable that you are able to kneel down to be able to perform CPR and the recovery position. It is not vital and we may be able to make other arrangements. Please contact us and we will do our best to accommodate you.

Are we the competition?

No. We do not consider ourselves as competing with anyone else. Basic Emergency Life Support (ELS) skills are what we offer, others offer more detailed courses. Our aim is simple, deliver ELS to the public, many of which would not otherwise learn those skills and some who want to learn the skills but cannot afford other courses. We are working with Thatcham Neighborhood Wardens and South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), if you wish to take the training we deliver further SCAS offer various training courses, and there are others training providers about.

Do we provide event cover?

No. We do not provide medical cover for events.

What is a cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest is where the heart has stopped pumping blood around the body, it is an electrical problem with the heart. This is different to a heart attack which is a circulatory (plumbing) problem. When someone goes into cardiac arrest blood is no longer being pumped around the body to the organs which can, and will, cause the organs to fail. It is vital therefore that Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is started as soon as possible to keep blood and oxygen flowing around the body.

What is an AED?

An AED, automated external defibrillator, is a device which applies a shock to a casualty in cardiac arrest and should help to put their heart back into a rhythm. AEDs are designed to be simple and easy to use by anyone and requires little or no training. The device, once turned on, will tell you by voice prompts what to do and where to place any pads on the casualty. Once the pads are in place it will measure the electrical output of the heart. If a shock is required it will then ask you to press a button to shock the casualty, it cannot shock unless a shock is required and so cannot be misused or misapplied.

Why the need for CPR and AEDs?

Simply put, to save lives. To put this in some context there are in excess of 60,000 cardiac arrests every year in the UK that happen outside of hospitals. Out of that only 10% will survive, that is only 6,000 out of the 60,000. In addition to this there is the fact that whilst someone is in cardiac arrest their chance of survival decreases by about 10% for every minute that passes without CPR and/or defibrillation. Getting CPR started immediately is a priority along with an AED. This can improve the survival rates up to 75%.

Why do you not use uncoded/unlocked defibrillator cabinets?

Coded cabinets keep the devices more secure and ensure that they should only be deployed by the ambulance service. Staff though at each venue where we place a PAD have the code.

So how do I access a defibrillator cabinet?

The way this works in reality is; Assume you have seen someone collapse to the floor, you call 999. This should be your first thought, not to worry about where the defibrillator is, why? You do not yet know if they need a defibrillator and getting professional help is always a top priority. If the casualty is not breathing, the operator will get you to check if you have not done so, you would be instructed to start CPR and someone told to go and get an AED if there is one available nearby. The operator will give you the code to access the cabinet.  Once an AED is on scene you can then follow the instructions of the AED or get the operator on the phone to walk you through the process.

Doesn’t using a coded cabinet delay help?

In our opinion in a public environment, no. In the above scenario you have:

  1. Called 999
  2. Started CPR
  3. Got someone else to get the defibrillator

This is the correct way, CPR has started, so even if the cabinet was uncoded it wouldn’t get there any faster as someone still has to go and get it.

Will you give the code out to the public?

No, the ambulance service have the code and will give it out when required.  Venue owners and some staff also have the code.

Do I need to be trained to use a defibrillator?

No, these devices are designed to be used by the public with no training. However training may make you more willing to use one and speed up the use of such a device.

Can I get it wrong with a defibrillator?

Unlikely. The defibrillators will not shock a casualty unless needed, i.e. they are intelligent enough to recognise when to shock and when not to.

Where does your funding come from?

We do various fundraising, quizes, walks, mountain climbs, and much more. Some of the money comes from grant applications and from very geneorous individuals in the community. We get no money from government to allow us to do what we do; we are self funded group of volunteers.

When do you run courses?

We run courses as often as we can but we are all volunteers most with full time day jobs. Thus most courses are run at the weekend or evenings.

Do you get paid?

No. We are all volunteers.

Can you have Public Access Defibrillators too close together?

The more devices there are the better as it means there is a higher chance of getting a device to the scene quickly. We know of locations where there are devices every 100m, others where sites have multiple devices very close together.

Can we order equipment (i.e. defibrillators) via you?

No. We raise funds to purchase defibrillators and other equipment to place and donate to the community. If you wish to purchase a defibrillator then you will have to purchase direct from a supplier. We are happy to help where we can, give advice and so on.

Will you replace maintain our defibrillator?

No. Defibrillator maintenance is straightforward and we are happy to show you how to maintain your system. However we are all volunteers and do not have the resources to maintain other systems.

Will you provide us with consumables for our defibrillator?

No. We have limited funds and maintain our own defibrillators. If you need consumables for yours you will need to go to a supplier yourself.

Can we register our defibrillator with you?

No. We recommend you register your defibrillator with your local ambulance service to ensure it is available in an emergency. For Berkshire this is South Central Ambulance Service. Please see their registration page here.

Is there a map of defibrillators?

Yes. We suggest first looking at your local ambulance service. For Berkshire you will find South Central Ambulance Service have an the save a life app. At present (Nov 2018) there are a dozen apps but no true national system (yet).