Friday 20th January 2023 was a momentous day for The Oliver King Foundation, as the first of 20,000 defibrillators for schools across England was delivered to King David High School, Liverpool, by the charity’s founder, Mark King. 

Mark set up the foundation in 2012, after the unfortunate and sudden death of his son, Ollie, who had a cardiac arrest while taking part in a swimming race at King David High School. A post-mortem examination discovered Ollie had Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS), which occurs when the heart stops pumping blood around the body without warning. Diagnosing SADS is challenging, but tests do exist to identify it, and this year Mark is hoping to make these tests more accessible and readily available. 

Image for The rollout of 20,000 defibrillators to schools up and down the country

Sadly, SADS kills as many as twelve young people every week, but using a defibrillator quickly can drastically increase a person's chances of survival, as every minute of delay reduces their chance of survival by 10%.  

Since 2012, the charity's mission has been to place defibrillators in schools and educate people on their potentially lifesaving capabilities. Through their efforts, they have furnished thousands of these lifesaving devices, with sixty lives already rescued thanks to their installations. In addition, they also provide educational resources on CPR and SADS with the ultimate goal of ensuring every large public building has a defibrillator available. Had there been one at the swimming pool where Oliver was competing, he may still be with us today. 

Image for The rollout of 20,000 defibrillators to schools up and down the country

After a decade of relentless campaigning, in March 2022, the then Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, pledged to fund the rollout of 22,000 defibrillators. That July, the government agreed to install the devices in every school in England. To date, this is England's largest defibrillator rollout programme and will guarantee students and staff access to crucial lifesaving equipment. This is a huge achievement for the charity, but the work doesn’t stop there; their mission is ongoing and evolving, and the foundation is now aiming to have legislation passed to require the NHS to offer SADS testing for everyone. 

In this week’s Tea with the Changemakers podcast, while reflecting that the rollout was a huge victory for the foundation, Mark told us that, "we still lose up to twelve young lives a week, and this has to stop.”  

How can you help? 

The Oliver King Foundation has travelled the length and breadth of the country to train over 135,000 people in defibrillator awareness, and your support will help them to continue their life-saving work. 

To hear Mark’s story, check out this week’s podcast, where Mark looks back on Oliver's life, the impact he had on people, and celebrates what the foundation has achieved so far.