Rotherham ref shows red card to VAT on defibs

Howard Webb and John Healey MPHoward Webb and John Healey MP
Howard Webb and John Healey MP
ROTHERHAM’S World Cup Final referee is showing the red card to VAT on life-saving medical devices.

Howard Webb has joined Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey in campaigning to get the government to remove the 20 per cent tax that local sports teams and community groups must pay when purchasing the lifesaving equipment.

Defibrillators cost between £800 and £2,500, meaning a VAT cut could reduce their cost by as much as £500.

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Howard, who is now chief refereeing officer at the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, was referee when former Bolton Wanderers player Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch and was helped by a defibrillator in 2012.

John Healey met with ex-footballer Fabrice in the summer to launch a new mission to provide cardiac screening, CPR training and defibrillators to local communities via schools and sports clubs.

Howard Webb said: “What happened to Fabrice put things into perspective.

“The game is important, the result is important to people and it does affect people's livelihoods – but without life there is no football at all.”

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He added: “It’s well known how the early use of a defibrillator is vital when it comes to saving lives and I was taken aback that sports clubs and local groups have to pay as much as £500 in tax when they buy one.

“Making the devices more affordable is a simple and effective way to save lives in communities across the country.”

Currently, only automated external defibrillators purchased by or donated to specific charities, local authorities, and the NHS are exempt from VAT.

John Healey launched his campaign earlier this year and has written to the Chancellor asking him to review the current VAT status of AEDs in the UK, and to axe the tax on the life-saving kit.

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He said said: “The current VAT charge is a tax on saving lives.

“AEDs bought for use by all community groups and sports clubs should be VAT exempt to make them more affordable and help to save more lives across the country.

“It’s great that defibrillators are becoming more readily available to help people in an emergency, but local organisations and community groups shouldn’t have to face this extra VAT cost when they look to raise the funds for defib units to benefit their community.”

The campaign is also being backed by the British Healthcare Trades Association and Rotherham’s Start a Heart 24:7 charity.

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Chief executive David Stockdale said: “It’s astonishing that these vital devices continue to be treated – at least in tax terms – as secondary to other medical products and treatments.

“Almost three quarters of cardiac arrests happen in the home or a workplace and half of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are witnessed by a bystander.

Despite this, public access defibrillators are used in less than one in ten instances – there simply is not enough defibrillators on our streets, in our offices and our community spaces.

“The case for scrapping this ‘heart restart’ tax is irrefutable, and it’s high time the Chancellor takes action.”

John Healey's petition to cut the VAT on defibrillators is available to sign online at