All young people should learn CPR, say experts

If someone collapses in cardiac arrest, CPR – short for cardiopulmonary resuscitation –could save their life.

But while one in five adults in the UK has witnessed someone who needs immediate CPR, the majority do not act, says the latest research funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

The survey, carried out by researchers at the University of Warwick, quizzed 2,000 people across the UK to find out how likely they are to witness a life-threatening cardiac arrest. It also found that people are three times more likely to perform CPR if they had received training.

Cardiac arrest survival rates in the UK are low. According to the BHF there are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests across the UK every year. But fewer than one in 10 of these people survive. As a result, a collaboration of health organisations – including the BHF, Resuscitation Council (UK), St John Ambulance, British Red Cross and the Yorkshire and NHS ambulance services – is calling for all young people to be trained in CPR to help save more lives.

“Our research shows just how important it is for everyone to learn CPR,” says Prof Gavin Perkins, Professor of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Warwick, who led the research.

“It is staggering to think that 1 in 5 of us will at some point have the opportunity to save a life by giving CPR. CPR is a vital step in the chain of survival after a cardiac arrest. The chance of surviving is almost zero if people collapse and receive no bystander CPR until the emergency services arrive. Thousands of deaths could be prevented if more people learn CPR.”

Life-saving skill

Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around 10 per cent, claims the BHF. But if CPR was taught more widely, it’s estimated that thousands of lives could be saved every year.

Another survey conducted by the BHF has also revealed that an overwhelming 89 percent of people believe CPR should be taught in all schools in the UK. The same survey showed there is a significant reluctance to perform CPR, with 40 percent of respondents stating they lacked the skills and knowledge to perform CPR.

“CPR is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest,” says Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation.

“Every second counts, and it simply isn’t enough to hope that someone who knows CPR is present. We need everyone to learn this life-saving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest.”

Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director at NHS England, also believes it’s time to act. “Teaching CPR to school children equips them with the knowledge that will ensure they can act in times of need,” he says. “Empowering a young person with such a skill will allow them to take control in such a situation, and possibly ultimately save a life.”

The BHF’s Call Push Rescue training kit is free for eligible secondary schools in the UK and comprises training equipment and resources needed to teach children life-saving CPR skills. To find out how to apply for a kit, visit the BHF website.

To read more information on how to do CPR, read Cardiac arrest: could you help save someone’s life? You can also watch BHF videos about CPR training online.