Publication - Progress report

Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest - A Strategy for Scotland Review 2015 - 16

Published: 24 Nov 2016
Community Health and Social Care Directorate
Part of:
Health and social care

This review reports on the activities and achievements of the Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrest (OHCA) Strategy for Scotland to September 2016.

44 page PDF

4.2 MB

44 page PDF

4.2 MB

Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest - A Strategy for Scotland Review 2015 - 16
Introduction and Background

44 page PDF

4.2 MB

Introduction and Background


In March 2015 a broad coalition of partners set out plans to improve survival after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest ( OHCA). The main aims of the OHCA Strategy for Scotland are to save 1000 additional lives and train 500,000 people in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation ( CPR) by 2020. This will make Scotland a world leader in the management of OHCA.

The OHCA Strategy is very much a Strategy for Scotland. It is an example of public and voluntary services working together to achieve a common aim. It was devised in a collaboration between the Scottish Government, Scottish Ambulance Service, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service ( SFRS), Police Scotland, British Heart Foundation ( BHF), Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland ( CHSS) and Resuscitation Research Group, University of Edinburgh. Delivery of the aims of the Strategy continues to involve these and many more partner organisations as outlined in this report.


When a person has a cardiac arrest the heart suddenly stops. They will die within minutes unless treated.

Immediate response by the people present is essential - every minute really counts.

Ordinary people save lives by taking effective action - calling 999; carrying out CPR; and using a defibrillator to restart the heart when available. This action keeps the person alive until the medical support, an ambulance, arrives.

This is the reason why working with the public in Scotland is key and the priority in the initial stages of the OHCA Strategy. Recognising a cardiac arrest - calling 999 - CPR and defibrillation are central to saving lives.

OHCA is a significant health challenge in Scotland and survival rates are low compared to the European average. What is known is that it is possible to change this situation and achieve parity with those countries where OHCA survival rates are up to four times higher than Scotland.

The difference between a 'heart attack' and 'cardiac arrest'?

A heart attack is a sudden interruption to the blood supply to part of the heart muscle. It is likely to cause chest pain and permanent damage to the heart. The heart is still sending blood around the body and the person remains conscious and is still breathing.

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body. Someone who is having a cardiac arrest will suddenly lose consciousness and will stop breathing or stop breathing normally. Unless immediately treated by CPR this always leads to death within minutes.

A person having a heart attack is at high risk of experiencing a cardiac arrest.

Both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are life-threatening medical emergencies and require immediate medical help. Call 999 if you think you are having a heart attack or if you witness someone having a cardiac arrest.