An ambulance service has requested the return of a life-saving defibrillator that was stolen just minutes after the start of the new year.

North West Ambulance Service has warned that improper use of such equipment can cause “serious damage” and be “potentially fatal in the wrong hands”.

The medical device, which is used in life-threatening emergencies when people are in cardiac arrest, was removed from an incident scene in Union St West, Oldham, Greater Manchester at around 12:15 p.m.

A defibrillator is a basic device carried by every NWAS emergency vehicle, but it is different from those used in the community and requires proper training to use them.

A spokesperson for the service said: “These defibrillators are much larger than those in the community and in public buildings, and special training is needed to use them – in addition to being expensive and necessary equipment for any crew. ambulance, using them improperly can cause serious damage and they can be potentially fatal in the wrong hands.

“We urge anyone who took it not to use it on anyone and to contact us on 0345 113 0099 to arrange for its return.”

They asked anyone with information about the stolen defibrillator to call the same number.