ALL of West Oxfordshire’s towns and parishes will get a defibrillator to help heart attack victims under a scheme that health officials say will save lives.

An anonymous donation to the ambulance service will see 24 of the £1,800 devices – which shock the heart back to life – provided.

And district councillors are today set to agree funding for 30 more devices in other communities.

Anyone can use the devices on victims of cardiac arrest – where blood stops pumping into the heart – before an ambulance or paramedic car arrives.

People calling 999 will be given a code to get defibrillators out of their locked storage boxes at key locations in communities and the machine itself provides audio instructions on how to use it.

The moves follows concern about ambulance response times in rural areas, including West Oxfordshire, and a warning from the region’s ambulance chief that he cannot guarantee life-saving cover.

South Central Ambulance Service’s responder department manager, Dick Tracey, said: “There’s no question – it will save additional lives.

“Sudden cardiac arrest is the UK’s single biggest killer and when somebody goes into this horrendous medical condition the chances of successful resuscitation reduce by 10 per cent per minute.”

He said: “CPR can buy time but the definitive treatment for this is a shock from a defibrillator.”

Free training will be offered by the service, he said, but defibrillators are “incredibly easy to use” and only work when no heart activity is detected.

The devices have already been provided in Stonesfield, Cassington and Finstock, with the latest installed at The Reading Room, on the village green in Combe.

Discussions are also taking place with the parish councils in Eynsham, Burford, Freeland and Leafield while Shipton-under-Wychwood will get a device next week.

The donation has come from someone whose life was saved by a defibrillator, though the ambulance service would not say how much money was given.

Combe Parish Council chairman Elena Softley said: “If we had been offered something like this and turned it down and somebody died after a cardiac arrest, we would have missed an opportunity.”

West Oxfordshire District Council is set to pay half the costs of the devices, £27,000, for communities not receiving help from the ambulance service or where residents have banded together to install defibrillators themselves, including Aston, where one is available at Aston Repair Depot garage, in The Square.

Residents or parish and town councils will have to meet the remaining £900 cost of each defibrillator.

Response times are slower in rural areas, as ambulances are mostly stationed in more populated urban areas where demand is greatest. In December 2012 we reported that just 52.8 per cent of life-threatening emergencies in the district were reached within eight minutes, against a target of 75 per cent.

But the ambulance service’s chief executive, Will Hancock, said it would never be able to guarantee life-saving cover, which would need 90 more ambulances in Oxfordshire alone.

A council report said the plan will help the “under pressure” ambulance service and give “the best possible chance of surviving cardiac arrest”.