A DISUSED phone box in Thorndon Cross has been transformed to help save lives after being fitted with a defibrillator at the request of residents.

After months in the planning, Sourton Parish Council was pleased to unveil the livesaving device last week and wants as many people as possible to be aware of its location on the junction with the A3079.

The parish council purchased the phone box from BT for £1 when the telephone company was selling off its underused public pay phones.

Last year a number of residents approached the council to ask for the box to house a defibrillator and after securing funding from the former Devon County Council town and parishes fund, the council bought a device from the charity Community Heartbeat Trust.

The device is used to help and support a patient in cardiac arrest by applying a current of electricity across the heart to stop it, allowing it to reconfigure automatically. The charity claims death from cardiac arrest, if untreated, occurs in around 97% of cases, but survival to hospital could, in theory, be raised to around 70%, assuming rapid action, good CPR and the timely use of a defibrillator.

Parish councillor Sue Eberle said: ‘About a year ago 18 parishioners came forward and asked for a defibrillator to be installed in the defunct phone box— in a hamlet of only 180 houses, that’s a large portion of the population. We were keen to respond to this idea and were quick to get funding and we bought a defib from the Community Heartbeat Trust which works in partnership with BT and the emergency services. They will manage the defibrillator on our behalf.

‘It is very important to have this facility, particularly as in many rural areas we seem to have an ageing population. The defibrillator is something you hope you never need to use, but it is there if you ever do.’

A number of parish councillors have undertaken training on how to use the defibrillator.