Nine out of 10 adults lack first aid skills

Would you know what to do in a first aid emergency? If research by the British Red Cross is anything to go by, most of us wouldn’t.

The survey asked more than 2,000 UK adults about how much they know about first aid, as well as how confident and willing they might be to intervene in three potentially life-threatening first aid emergencies: helping someone who is bleeding heavily; healing someone who is unresponsive and breathing; and helping someone who is unresponsive and not breathing.

The following are some of the survey’s findings:

  • Only one in 20 people said they would feel knowledgeable, confident and willing to act in those three scenarios, 95 per cent said they wouldn’t.
  • Seven out of 10 adults lack the knowledge and confidence to act if someone collapsed and was unresponsive and breathing.
  • Nearly seven in 10 said they wouldn’t have the knowledge or confidence to act if someone was bleeding heavily.
  • When also asked if they’d have the knowledge and confidence to act if a baby was choking, eight out of 10 adults said they wouldn’t.

Meanwhile research by the British Heart Foundation suggests 60 per cent of adults would be worried about knowing what to do if someone had a cardiac arrest, and only 20 per cent of people taking part in the research were able to identify the signs of a cardiac arrest correctly.

“When an emergency strikes, giving first aid could save someone’s life,” says Joe Mulligan, head of first aid education at the British Red Cross.

“We all hope that someone would be able to help us in an emergency, but our research shows that few people feel they have the skills and confidence to act in some serious situations.”

First aid at school

As a result of these findings, three of the UK’s largest charities – the British Red Cross, the British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance – have teamed up to campaign for first aid to be a taught at school for just one hour a year. Indeed this is something many people support, says St John Ambulance, whose survey suggests 80 per cent of us back compulsory first aid lessons in all schools.

Carl Makings, head of training at St John Ambulance, says children spend around 1,000 hours at school each year. “We’re asking for just one hour of that curriculum for them to learn first aid skills that will last a lifetime and might one day enable them to be the difference between a life lost and a life saved,” he says.

However you don’t have to be at school to learn first aid. You can start by learning some simple skills online at There are also many first aid courses that could teach you essential life-saving skills – try finding one to suit you at the British Red Cross or St John Ambulance.

Your local Careway pharmacist also has loads of tips for treating everyday first aid situations, including minor cuts, bruises, burns, sprains and strains. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.