It’s time to scrap VAT on life-saving defibrillators

My dear friend Carl was 61 when he suffered from a cardiac arrest. I never met my maternal grandfather, but he died after a cardiac arrest in 1964.

The shocking and saddening passing of friends and loved ones as a result of a cardiac arrest is a story shared by many across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Whilst advances in technology and treatment has meant heart and circulatory-related deaths have declined by around three-quarters in the past 60 years, there is still more to be done to prevent deaths from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and ensure that those who suffer from one have the absolute best chance of survival.

That is why I wrote to the Chancellor urging him to apply a VAT exemption to anyone purchasing the life-saving equipment.

Currently, charities and local authorities can apply for the exemption, but not a business or a community who has fundraised to install one.

My letter was backed by all parties at Holyrood and was co-signed by more than 50 MSPs and has the backing of the Scottish Government, with Kate Forbes and Maree Todd both writing to Rishi Sunak to apply the exemption to defibrillators.

In writing to the Treasury, I highlighted the importance of having an effective defibrillator network across the country and to do that we must make it cheaper for the devices to be bought.

Research from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) found that every minute a person who suffers a cardiac arrest goes without CPR and defibrillation reduces their chances of survival by 10%. Which is exactly why it is so crucial that we make it easier for these devices to be purchased and made easily available to those who need it.

They are extremely easy to use and it does not matter if you have never used one as the device itself talks you through what to do. It will instruct you on where to place the pads, when to give CPR and it will not shock someone unless they need it.

Currently, defibrillators can be purchased for around £1,000, which is why I have campaigned for VAT for them to be exempted to make them cheaper.

However, I was disappointed with the response I received from the Chancellor that he will not be considering defibrillators for a VAT exemption. It would appear that the Chancellor does not care for making it easier to save hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

I will continue to press the importance of the issue to the Treasury in the hope that they will see sense and how vital it is to saving lives that these devices are widely and easily accessible.

Despite that, there are other measures you can take to save lives.

According to the BHF, tens of thousands of defibrillators are currently not known by the Scottish Ambulance Service. Knowing its location can literally be the difference between life and death.

To ensure we have an effective defibrillator network, it is so important that anyone who owns one registers it with The Circuit. This is a resource produced by the BHF, in conjunction with ambulance services across the UK, which allows call handlers to quickly locate the nearest defibrillator when someone has dialled 999.

It is crucial that these devices are registered on The Circuit – and if you or anyone you know has a defibrillator that is publicly accessible, you can register it by going to

We can also be life-savers by teaching ourselves how to give out CPR. You can learn what to do in the situation where a friend, family member or stranger in the street suffers a cardiac arrest by following the simple guides available on the BHF website. One day, you could become a life-saver.

If we all learn how to effectively give CPR and work to build a defibrillator network across the country, then people like my grandfather and my friend Carl can have a much better chance of survival – and ultimately be able to spend even more precious time with friends and family.