VILLAGES surrounding Swindon are having vital heart machines installed in strategic locations after a charity drive, including one at the Highworth police station.

Highworth District and Lions Club have paid for three of the machines, designed to restart a heart following a cardiac arrest, and expect to buy a fourth.

One of the defibrillators has now been installed outside the Highworth police station, and will become operational next week.

Graham Stephens, chairman of the Highworth District and Lions Club, launched the fundraising drive to raise around £8,000 for the machines.

“We decided to try to put defibrillators in Highworth and the surrounding villages, and at the moment we have one at the council offices and and one at the police station,” he said. “We will have two more placed in Highworth, one of which we have purchased and we have the funds for the other.

“Our ambition is to put one in Shrivenham, one in South Marston and one in Blunsdon.

“I became aware that there are defibrillators being placed in strategic locations in towns and villages across the country, and Highworth has quite an elderly population so it seemed only sensible to follow suit.

“These machines are £2,000 each or more and we have bought three already. If anybody calls 999 these machines are registered, and the person who calls is given a code and that releases the defibrillator. It cannot harm anybody.”

PC Sandra Higgins-Hughes, community beat manager for Highworth, said the team were happy to accommodate the machine.

“There are quite a lot of elderly residents locally, and sometimes it can take some time for the ambulance to come out in an emergency,” she said. “If someone can run over and use this machine immediately it has the ability to save someone’s life.

“Absolutely anyone can use one of these machines, and it has instructions which takes you through the whole process. While it is really easy to use, the Lions Club are giving people first aid training locally in the community centre, and St John’s Ambulance have been coming in and have done a few sessions already.

“It will only shock someone if they do not have a heartbeat, so it is perfectly safe to users. People have been asking that question whether the shock would do them any damage, but it is harmless. Quite the opposite.”

The new defibrillators will be the first in Highworth to be available throughout the day.

“It is very useful because people will be able to use this 24/7,” added PC Higgins-Hughes. “The doctors surgery also have one of these machines installed but they close at 6pm.

“I am hoping that next week everything will be finalised and it will be able to go live.

“It is all security locked and there is an access code to it. When the club researched the machines they went for the most secure version that avoids any kind of vandalism.”