GWENT Assembly Members have backed calls for wider distribution of life-saving heart equipment in public places, with one calling it a “first class campaign”.

Newport nurse Phil Hill will give a presentation at the Senedd on April 29 in a bid to see new legislation introduced, in memory of tragic Oakdale teen Jack Thomas who died of an underlying heart problem two years ago.

It follows a petition Mr Hill launched to see Automated External Defibrillators (AED) available like fire extinguishers, and a fundraising drive from the Argus to introduce them into every secondary school in Gwent and the Rhymney Valley which is currently at the £4,500 mark.

Yesterday, the campaign received support from several Gwent AMs, including Lyndsay Whittle, who represents South Wales East.

He spoke passionately about the significance of the issue.

“All too often we hear about youngsters who die from these hidden conditions,” he said.

“I think they should be put in primary schools too, because you just never know.

“But certainly places where people congregate en masse they are needed, such as football stadiums, theatres and cinemas. It’s a first class campaign and has my full support.”

Newport East AM John Griffiths said: “I think it is important debate and one which requires proper engagement to produce an informed view. The health minister will be listening very closely to the debate I am sure.”

Emphasis was also put on the need for proper training.

Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay added: “It would clearly need funding and we need to know where that is going to come from. Unlike fire extinguishers this is going to be used on people so the equipment would need to be checked and maintained. You also need to make sure that staff in public buildings are trained to use the equipment otherwise it could have the opposite effect to that intended. Teachers for instance might be reticent to use it unless they know they won't cause harm. If you have to wait for a first responder to use it then it defeats the object of having it. There's no point having legislation if it doesn't have a positive effect where it matters.”

William Graham, AM for South Wales East, agreed that training was vital.

“Otherwise they would be useless,” he said. “But anything the saves lives is bound to be a good idea.”

To make a donation to Jack’s Appeal, or to donate the proceeds of a fundraising event send cheques made payable to the Welsh Hearts charity, either to its headquarters at Temple Court, 13a Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9HA, or to Newsdesk, South Wales Argus, Cardiff Road, Newport NP20 3QN.

Write ‘Jack Thomas defibs appeal’ on the back of the envelope.