BT Press Releases

DC11-252                                                                                              Monday, 7 November, 2011

Argyll phone box is first in Scotland to be transformed into life saver

A rural phone kiosk in Argyll has become the first in Scotland to be transformed into a life saver - thanks to a new initiative by BT and the Community Heartbeat Trust (CHT).

BT is paying for defibrillator equipment, which can help save the lives of heart attack victims, to be installed in the traditional red phone box in the picturesque village of Glendaruel in Argyll, which attracts hundreds of visitors each year. It is one of five kiosks across the UK where BT is fitting the equipment.

Available to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the defibrillator is housed in the kiosk in a high visibility yellow, vandal-resistant, heated steel cabinet. It can be opened under instruction from the Scottish Ambulance Service by calling 999.

The defibrillator machine talks the user through how to administer treatment with step-by-step spoken instructions, for example, telling the user to apply the pads to the casualty’s chest. The machine analyses the victim to determine if they are suffering from a heart attack and if required delivers a powerful, but controlled, electric shock to restore normal heartbeat.

The kiosk was one of four bought by Colintraive & Glendaruel Community Council for £1 each as part of BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme, because they were no longer needed as working payphones.

The idea of using it to house a defibrillator came from local Girl Guide Heather Munro, 16, after the 1st Glendaruel Guides held a competition to find the best uses for the booth. The Guides had just completed first aid certificates with the Red Cross.

Her mum Suzy Munro, a Guide leader and community council member, said: “We have a lot of visitors to the village who come for the walking and our annual Cowalfest and a number of the local businesses are in the tourist trade.

“We have seen people suffering from chest pain and heart-related symptoms and, sadly, there was a fatality just a few weeks ago. A defibrillator in the centre of the village will be a real asset and could help save lives in future.”

Up to 200,000 people a year in the UK suffer from a sudden heart attack, making it one of the UK’s largest killers, and last year the Scottish Ambulance Service dealt with 31,000 incidents of chest pain and 6,564 cardiac arrests. The faster a victim gets medical help, the better the chances of survival. The availability of a defibrillator machine greatly increases the chances of surviving an attack. With CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) alone, the survival rate is around five per cent, but defibrillation and CPR increases the chance to up to 50 per cent.

The Community Heartbeat Trust provides defibrillation equipment for local communities and Martin Fagan, national secretary of the charity, said: “We are immensely grateful to BT for their help in this novel use of a familiar icon. Phone boxes are ideal locations for emergency medical equipment because they’re often in the centre of a town or village.

“With something as serious as a cardiac arrest time is of the essence and unfortunately the emergency services can’t always reach country villages to apply defibrillators in the recommended five minutes. We hope that many more people will adopt their kiosk and enlist our help to save lives in rural communities.”

BT’s Adopt a Kiosk scheme has captured the imagination of people up and down the country since it was introduced in 2008. Apart from the defibrillator kiosks, boxes have been turned into art galleries, public libraries, exhibitions and information centres, even the villagers of Ambridge in BBC Radio 4’s long-running drama The Archers have adopted their kiosk.

Mark Johnson, BT’s Head of Street Payphones, said: “The most fantastic thing about the Adopt a Kiosk scheme has been how communities across the country have become involved. Red phone boxes have become a focal point for all sorts of activities of real value to the local community. It’s so gratifying to see our old rarely used boxes given a new lease of life.

“Over the years, many people have said that their local phone box was a lifeline. Now that everyone has a phone at home or a mobile that’s no longer true, but kiosks fitted with defibrillator machines are genuine assets to their community and could be real life savers in the future.”

Payphone use has been falling for many years, at its peak in 2002, there were 92,000 phone boxes on our streets, but their numbers have been declining with BT removing them in response to the drop in use. Calls from payphones have fallen by more than 80 per cent in the last five years.

There are now 11,000 traditional phones boxes across the UK out of a total number of 51,500 kiosks. The numbers of red and modern kiosks are set to continue to shrink, as BT cuts their numbers to match demand. BT has recently written to community and parish councils across the UK inviting them to adopt their local kiosk and safeguard it from removed.


Payphone facts and figures

• Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed the first incarnation of the world famous red phone box for a competition in 1924. This design, the K2, was introduced in 1926, predominately in London. In 1936, Scott refined his design for the famous K6 introduced nationwide to celebrate George V's Silver Jubilee. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott also designed Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, and Battersea and Bankside (now Tate Modern) Power Stations in London.

• The K2 kiosk is 9'3" tall (2.7 metres) and weighs in at one and a quarter tons (1,270 kilograms). New they cost £35.14s.0d each.

• The K6 kiosk is 8’3” (2.4 metres) and weighs in at three quarters of a ton (762 kilograms).

• At their peak in 2002, there were 92,000 payphones across the UK, now there are 51,500 public payphones (including 11,000 red boxes) on the street and 11,000 payphones on private sites like railway stations, airports and shopping centres.

• 100,000 calls are made each day from public payphones; just three per cent of adults used a payphone in the last month. The number of calls made is falling by 25 per cent each year and 64 per cent of phone boxes lose money.

• Successful new ideas, which have helped phone boxes pay their way, include advertising on 20,000 modern kiosks and combining Wi-Fi and cash machine services with both modern and traditional red phone boxes.

Notes to editors

• For more information about Adopt a Kiosk, including a kiosk checker and application forms, visit the BT Payphones web site at:
• For examples of adopted kiosks see:  and
• In 2009, BT ran a competition to find the most innovative use of a red kiosk with a £5,000 prize for the winner.
• When BT wants to remove a phone box it follows rules set by Ofcom
• BT has a duty, known as the Universal Service Obligation (USO), to provide a reasonable number of working phone boxes where they are most needed. 

About the Community Heartbeat Trust

Community Public Access Defibrillation (cPAD)

CHT is a registered charity that supports the cost effective installation of life saving defibrillation equipment into local communities.

CHT is working with key stakeholders and ambulance services across the UK to establish community defibrillators. It works with members of the public, local councils and relevant charities to provide equipment that is robust, vandal-resistant, safe and manufactured to the appropriate standards. It can also arrange training to a national standard through recognised training organisations. CHT relies on public donations for funding.

For more information visit