THE British Heart Foundation (BHF) has trained 197 people to use defibrillators in Wiltshire as part of its National Defibrillator Programme.

The charity has also given 24 of the life-saving machines to the county's ambulance service.

So far two people in Wiltshire, who would have died from cardiac arrest, are alive as a result of the defibrillators.

The BHF was given £6 million by the Big Lottery Fund in October 2003 to set up 2,300 defibrillators around the country and fund new Community Defibrillation Officer posts in every ambulance service.

The Great Western Ambulance Service was awarded 194 of the machines in total, with 24 for Wiltshire alone.

Community responders - volunteers who either keep or have rapid access to a defibrillator - have helped significantly improve Great Western Ambulance Service's emergency response times, particularly in the county's rural areas.

Claire Goodman, regional director for the BHF said: "A cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time.

"And when it does, your chances of survival drop by 14 per cent with every minute that passes without defibrillation.

"Paramedics alone often cannot compete with those kind of odds - which is why the lottery scheme and the BHF's continued efforts to fund defibrillators and train community responders are vital to give people whose hearts stop suddenly a fighting chance of a second life."

Anyone interested in becoming a community responder should contact Great Western Ambulance Service on (01285) 858500 and ask for Carl Marsden or Verity Hitchings.

People can also sign up for a free, two-hour Heartstart UK course in emergency life support skills.

Visit for more information on courses in the area or call Heartstart UK coordinators Suzannah McGregor on (01903) 787836 or Helen Murdoch on (01273) 390954.