FEARS that more stringent rules governing safety checks on defibrillators in rural areas might lead to prosecutions have been expressed at a Dales parish council meeting.

Council clerk Karen Lynch, who with husband Steve regularly checks the life-saving equipment in Askrigg, said the Yorkshire Ambulance Service are now wanting forms to be completed and signed.

“It’s a much more formal arrangement,” Mrs Lynch told Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council.

“When it was first installed we were told the defibrillators needed to be checked, and they wanted volunteer ‘guardians’ to look after them. We took it on ourselves to check it every week when we were passing, just to make sure it was working.

“Now they are asking people to fill in a form giving the number of the cabinet, the time and date it’s been checked, and all sorts of information to say that it’s working properly, yet they still want it done voluntarily.”

The ambulance service had stressed they were “not in the blame game,” said Mrs Lynch, but she added that the new procedure involved “a lot of form filling” and raised the question of who was responsible if things went wrong.

“What if the defibrillator malfunctions? Whose responsibility is that? You’re getting into that whole thing of responsibility and it’s a lot for volunteers to take on. They volunteer has to sign it off as being ok, but does it need someone with more expertise? It is worrying.”

Chairman Bruce Fawcett agreed it was too much for one person.

“It’s all very well them saying it isn’t a blame game but once you’ve signed that form you are responsible,” he said.

Mrs Lynch said she and her husband would continue to check the defibrillator, and members supported her in contacting the Yorkshire Ambulance Service to discuss it further.

“We were checking it one day when a responder from Hawes happened to pass by, and noticed something wasn’t quite right with it. It should possibly be someone like a [trained] responder who does it in future,” she said.