11 June 2018
Statement by Peter Weir DUP MLA for Strangford and Education Spokesman;
"There is no greater tragedy in our society than the preventable loss of young life. Automated External Defibrillators, which are effectively a local invention by Professor Frank Pantridge, have played a key role on a weekly basis in reducing the number of such tragedies, and we have seen the benefits of this recently, with interventions in the crucial minutes before an ambulance can get there often being the difference between life and death. Sadly, we have also witnessed too many tragedies in their absence.
While it is unclear how many schools in total have access to a defibrillator, figures I have obtained from the Department of Education show that around 1/4 of all schools have purchased an AED through the procurement platform of the Education Authority during the last 4 years, with 19 Special Schools 178 Primary Schools and 69 Post-Primary Schools obtaining them through this route. There are also another 110 that have been purchased through EA for Libraries, Youth Groups and other organisations. The schools figure doesn't tell the whole story as many defibrillators have been purchased by schools either before 2014, through other routes or been donated to the school through charity groups or PTA fundraising.
It is nevertheless worrying that this means that many local schools do not have access to an AED. I appreciate that budgets are very tight, but I would urge the likely minority of schools and local communities that don't have a defibrillator to ensure that the provision of at least AED is available in their local school. We must all pray that the device is never needed, but when it is, it can make a critical difference and spare a family from heart breaking tragedy."