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Measuring the impact of an innovation is not always a straightforward task. It’s rare you can definitively say that one intervention helped save a life. Except, of course, when you’re talking about GoodSAM.

GoodSAM is a mobile app and web platform that alerts trained responders, such as off-duty doctors, nurses, paramedics and qualified first aiders, to life-threatening emergencies close by.

While thousands of Londoners are trained in first aid, most can only help if they happen to be present at the scene. Ambulance services use GoodSAM to notify responders of nearby emergencies via their smartphones, allowing them to arrive quickly, often before an ambulance, in cases where every second counts. The app also lists details of more than 23,000 defibrillators, directing responders to locate one whenever possible.

“Following a cardiac arrest, a patient’s chances of survival fall by 10% for each minute they don’t have good quality resuscitation or defibrillation,” says Mark Wilson, consultant neurosurgeon at Imperial College, Air Ambulance doctor and co-founder of GoodSAM.

Founded in 2013, GoodSAM was originally designed as a person-to-person messaging system, which could alert nearby responders and call 999. However, this model alone depended on the ‘alerter’ already having the app. To achieve its full potential, Mark and fellow co-founder Ali Ghorbangholi knew it was vital for GoodSAM to become integrated into the 999 response itself.

"Following a cardiac arrest, a patient’s chances of survival fall by 10% for each minute they don’t have good quality resuscitation or defibrillation."

Mark Wilson

The Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund (CSAIF) team worked with GoodSAM to find a willing partner to test the platform, writing to every ambulance service in the country. Thanks to its pioneering work, the London Ambulance Service was awarded £155,000 to do just that.

Technical teams from both organisations worked together to integrate the platform into the London Ambulance Service call centre, and the system went live in October 2015. Now, whenever a 999 call is received for a cardiac arrest, London Ambulance Service immediately deploys both an ambulance and an alert to nearby GoodSAM responders.

“Thanks to Nesta, the system is integrated with the London Ambulance Service and is being triggered around 20-30 times each day,” says Mark. “We have over 8,000 responders in the UK and the platform is now rolling out to other regional ambulance services.”

GoodSAM has already helped save two lives (with a further two unconfirmed). And following a successful partnership with London Ambulance Service, GoodSAM is now working with East Midlands Ambulance Service and the North West Ambulance Service to integrate the technology into their call handling centres, with the aim of being UK-wide by 2019.

“The system is integrated with the London Ambulance Service and is being triggered around 20-30 times each day. We have over 8,000 responders in the UK and the platform is now rolling out to other regional ambulance services.”

Mark Wilson

The system is also being used by individual alerters and responders in many countries including Australia, India, the US, other parts of Europe and South Africa.

To build sustainability into the model, GoodSAM has introduced a small annual subscription fee to each ambulance trust, which will enable them to pay for a central staff, evolve the platform and expand the work more quickly.

The platform recently released two innovative new features: Emergiscope, which enables video transmission from the scene to other responders or the ambulance control centre, and Life Detector, which can detect a patient’s heartbeat and breathing rate by placing a smartphone on the chest. Certain organisations (such as St John’s Ambulance, police, fire services and hospitals) can also register on the platform and approve their staff as responders.

Following its success so far, GoodSAM is now being supported through the Accelerating Ideas Fund, a partnership between Nesta and the Big Lottery Fund, to scale the platform across the UK and engage more older people as volunteers.

Mark says: “GoodSAM is revolutionising the immediate management of life-threatening conditions, providing trained people prior to ambulance service arrival. With Nesta’s help, we plan to grow the GoodSAM community across the UK.”

Find out more: https://www.goodsamapp.org/


The London Ambulance Service and GoodSAM was one of 52 projects backed by the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, a £14.5m fund designed to increase volunteering and social action within communities. The fund supported organisations with brilliant ideas to encourage more people to give their time and energy to help others, working alongside public services.

Illustration by Hey Monkey Riot