A potentially lifesaving device for the public to use in an emergency has been installed at a learning disability service in Walberton.

The supported living and day opportunities service, run by national charity Hft, secured the defibrillator from the Walberton, West Barnham and Binsted Poor Fund, after a member of staff suffered a heart attack while at work.

Jeff Hawkins, who has been a support worker at Hft for 11 years, began to feel unwell during a shift in November 2017. Thanks to the staff team present at the service, who were all first aid trained, his condition was quickly picked up and the emergency services were alerted. Jeff made a full recovery and staff at the charity began thinking about how a defibrillator could be a vital and potentially life-saving resource for both supported people and staff at the service, and the general public.

The charity successfully applied for funding for the device to the Walberton, West Barnham and Binsted Poor Fund, a charity which distributes grants or support to local people. The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) has now been installed.

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Hft Sussex supports over 70 people with learning disabilities locally and employs 60 members of staff, offering person-centred services ranging from residential care to supported living at home – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day.

Sarah Shallis, Operations Manager at Hft, said:

“We’re delighted to have obtained a device which could save vital minutes, and ultimately a life, if someone experiences a cardiac arrest. Situated in the heart of the community, the defibrillator will provide staff, people we support and members of the public with important reassurance that help is at hand in case of an emergency. The generous grant of £2,980 that we received also enabled us to fund a new adult changing table for our supported changing area and some equipment for our sensory area.

“We have longstanding links with the Walberton parish and a number of people we support are part of the church community. We’re very grateful to them.”

Reverend Tim Ward, Vicar of Walberton, said:

“We’re able to support a small number of people every year with things like bills and the cost of major items such as a defibrillator. We find that this assistance is much appreciated and have been very happy to supply a piece of vital equipment to an important local service.”

The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is located at Hft Sussex on Freeman Close in Walberton.

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About Hft

Hft is a national charity supporting more than 2,500 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Established in 1962, the charity uses its own unique Fusion Model to consistently deliver high quality, person-centred support across all its services.

Services range from supported living to residential care – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.

For more information about Hft, please visit www.hft.org.uk

Information about learning disabilities

A learning disability can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and is defined as having a reduced ability to:

  • Understand new or complex information
  • Learn new skills
  • Live independently

For more information about learning disabilities, please visit www.hft.org.uk/resources-and-guidance