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Leading charities rally behind BHTA campaign to scrap defibrillator tax 

[London, 20 December 2023] A coalition of leading first aid and cardiovascular charities, including the British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, have pledged support for the British Healthcare Trades Association campaign to scrap the VAT on Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), a move which would increase affordability and save lives.  

This comes as over 100 MPs and Peers wrote to the Prime Minister and Chancellor last month urging the Government to consider scrapping the defibrillator tax ahead of the Autumn Statement.  

The Heart Restart Tax initiative is led by the BHTA and brings together community groups, charities, businesses and MPs to campaign for change.  

Defibrillators are used to restart a person’s heart in the event of sudden cardiac arrest and early treatment can increase survival rates to as high as 70% if defibrillation is given within three to five minutes of collapse. However, the median distance to an AED from the centre of any given UK postcode is over 700m – an average 19-minute walking distance there and back.  

Small businesses, community groups, charities and private users must pay added tax on top of all defibrillator purchases – bringing costs up by £200-500 per defibrillator. The campaign is urging the Government to reconsider the tax to ensure that more defibrillators can be installed across the country.  

Currently, local authorities, the NHS, and specific first aid charities are exempt from VAT on defibrillators, meaning that the tax only hits small businesses and charities, community groups, grassroots sports clubs and private owners. 

In January, the Irish Government removed the VAT on defibrillators in Ireland in a bid to save lives and reduce pressure on healthcare services.   

David Stockdale, Chief Executive of the British Healthcare Trades Association, said: 

“We know that defibrillators save lives, but they are far too few and far between on our streets. This counterintuitive Heart Restart Tax is a tax on saving lives and we’re really pleased to have the support of leading first aid and cardiovascular charities to reinforce that scrapping the VAT on defibrillators is a common-sense solution to a real problem for private users, community groups and grassroots sports clubs.” 

Lynn Thomas, Medical Director at St John Ambulance, said: 

“In a cardiac arrest, every second counts. Using a defibrillator is crucial in those first moments and when used quickly can more the double the chances of survival. 

At St John Ambulance, we know Community First Aid Saves Lives, that’s why we welcome this campaign to empower our communities by strengthening public access to first aid training and equipment that will improve health outcomes and help save lives.”  

Susannah Kerr, Head of Public Affairs at the British Heart Foundation said: 

“The UK still has very poor survival rates for out of hospital cardiac arrests, and that is why it is vital that lifesaving defibs are as available and affordable as possible for communities across the country.  

We’re proud to support this campaign so that community groups, businesses and charities across the UK can ensure more defibs are where they need to be in the ultimate medical emergency.”  

Patrick Gollop, Director of Red Cross Training, said: 

“A sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, at any time, and survival rates are significantly greater by using chest compressions and a defibrillator quickly. This means much more should be done to increase the numbers of defibrillators across the country and particularly in community spaces; removing VAT on all defibrillator purchases would help to increase affordability and access and save lives in turn.”  


Notes to editors: 

  • The Heart Restart Tax campaign is run by the British Healthcare Trades Association. For more information, please see: &  
  • 19-year-old Jack Hurley, a coaching student and keen footballer who was saved by a defibrillator when he suffered a cardiac arrest during a football match, has launched a petition on behalf of the campaign:  
  • A person in the UK has just an 8% chance of surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. 
  • Early defibrillation can increase survival rates to as high as 70% if defibrillation is given within three to five minutes of a cardiac arrest. 
  • On average an AED is 726m away from the centre of any given postcode, which amounts to a 19-minute walk there and back. 
  • Currently, only defibrillators purchased by or donated to specific charities, local authorities and the NHS are exempt from VAT – increasing the cost of purchase for community groups, small businesses and other organisations by up to £500. Removing the VAT would increase defibrillator affordability by as much as £500 and widen access in public spaces.  
  • VAT relief is already granted to goods and services provided by health professionals which HMT deems ‘aimed at protecting, restoring and maintaining the health of the individual’. VAT exemptions are also already available for a number of medical devices for disabled people and older people for personal use, including heart pacemakers, artificial respirators, mobility scooters and sanitary devices.  
  • The Irish Government removed the VAT on defibrillators in January 2023 and the Heart Restart Tax campaign is calling for the UK to follow.