The Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) is rolling out a community access defibrillator project in villages and towns across Craven.

A hundred communities across Yorkshire are to receive a £2,000 defibrillator and a 24-hour access cabinet as part of YAS' Community Public Access Defibrillator 100 Project .

Communities such as Bradley, Cononley, Gargrave, Ingleton and Skipton have been identified as having a large number of cardiac arrests and patients who would benefit from early life-saving interventions.

"We know that in many medical emergencies the first few minutes are critical," said Dave Jones, community defibrillation officer for Craven and West Yorkshire. "If effective treatment can be performed within those first minutes, lives can be saved and disability reduced.”

And so YAS is installing defibrillators and cabinets housing the machines that have 24/7 access should a member of the public go into cardiac arrest.

Mr Jones said all people have to do is ring 999, who will give an access code to the cabinet and pick up the defibrillator.

"The machines are very clever," said Mr Jones. "They talk you through what you need to do, thus allowing people to do something while the ambulance arrives. Taking action in the first two or three minutes of a cardiac arrest can be critical to saving someone's life."

However, he said the units are most effective to those who live within 200 metres of the defibrillator cabinets.

So far cabinets have been installed in Gargrave, at village halls in Cononley and Bradley, and outside the Craven Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre in Skipton.

Mr Jones said cabinets are soon to be installed at Skipton Bus Station, to the toilet block in Skipton Town Hall car park and at the rear of Ingleton Community Centre.

"It is a fantastic facility for the community and we are very grateful to be part of the scheme," said Councillor Lois Brown, chairman of Cononley Parish Council. "All the village had to do was pay for the installation on the village institute."

Coun Brown said Cononley is also interested in having a defibrillation officer provide a training session for villagers interested in learning how to use the devices.

Mr Jones highlighted the importance of the community defibrillators "especially with Tour de France coming up quickly. You never know when a cardiac arrest will happen."