NHS leader on ethnic health inequalities makes urgent call for people from minority ethnic backgrounds to learn CPR

Dr Habib Naqvi, the director in charge of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, is calling on everybody, and particularly people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds to learn CPR skills this Restart A Heart Day.

His call comes amid worrying survey results showing that many people don’t know the difference between a cardiac arrest and a heart attack.

A quarter (26%) of Black, Asian and Minority ethnic people surveyed thought that a cardiac arrest and a heart attack are the same thing while a third (33%) didn’t know whether they are the same or different. Also, almost half of respondents (47%) from these backgrounds have never received any type of training on how to help someone experiencing a cardiac arrest.

Being able to spot the signs of a cardiac arrest, knowing what to do and acting quickly are key to someone’s survival.

A cardiac arrest is when someone has collapsed, is unresponsive and showing no signs of life and is not breathing normally. Calling 999, starting CPR quickly and accessing and using a public access defibrillator if one is available are crucial steps to take to give the person who’s not breathing normally their best chance of survival. Without rapid action, the person will die.

Dr Habib Naqvi, director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, said:

“Every year across the UK, more than 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital and the majority of these take place at home. Sadly, only 1 in 10 people survive.

“While we don’t know the exact numbers of people from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background who have a cardiac arrest each year, we do know that people from these backgrounds have a higher incidence of heart disease and other conditions, and that these increase the risk of a cardiac arrest.

“I want as many people as possible to have the skills and confidence to know what to do and to act quickly in an emergency, so they are in the best position to give a loved one the best chance of life. It doesn’t take long to learn the skills you need, because one day you might need to use them.”

“I’ve taken up the challenge myself and have recently undertaken CPR training. Whilst I hope not to ever put it into use, I now feel more confident of my handling skills if required.”

Dr Habib Naqvi practices chest compressions on a manikin
Pictured: Dr Habib Naqvi practicing chest compressions on a manikin as part of his CPR training on the week of Restart a Heart.

Professor Andrew Lockey, consultant in emergency medicine and Vice President, Resuscitation Council UK said:

“The steps to doing CPR are simple and I really hope everybody will respond to Dr Habib’s call for people to learn. While the ambulance service staff will often stay on the phone with you after you have called 999 to help guide you through how to do CPR, if you already know what to do, it may be easier to focus and stay calm.

“I understand people may feel nervous about doing CPR because of COVID-19, and that’s why Resuscitation Council UK currently advises that you do chest compression only CPR and don’t put your face near the person who has collapsed when checking for breathing.

“As 8 out of 10 cardiac arrests happen at home, you’re most likely to need to do CPR on someone you know and care about. You never know when you may need to put CPR skills into action, so if you’re never learnt, please do so now, and if you learnt a while ago, please refresh your skills.”

Rohit Sagoo, Founder and Director of British Sikh Nurses said:

“It’s really important that people know how to do CPR so they can potentially save the life of someone who has collapsed and is not breathing normally.

“With most sudden cardiac arrests outside of hospital taking place in the home, knowing what to do and starting CPR could mean the difference between life and death for a member of your family in an emergency. The few minutes you spend learning CPR now will mean you know what to do in a future emergency and have the confidence to carry out CPR before the ambulance arrives.

“We understand that you may feel that you should wait for a healthcare professional to arrive before starting CPR but it’s really important that you don’t. With every minute that goes by, someone’s chances of survival decrease by 10%. When you ring 999, the operator will support you and talk you through what to do, but please take the time to learn what to do now so you feel even more confident to act and help someone who needs you.”

Everyone can learn CPR by attending local training events and by using online resources, which they can find at resus.org.uk/rsah. There are resources available in a range of languages, including Punjabi, Hindi, Arabic, Gujarati, Welsh, Polish, Chinese and Kurdish. People can also support the campaign and learn more about it on social media using the hashtag #RestartAHeart.

Real Life Story

Cardiac arrest survivor Dilraj and his saviours Nadeem and Ismail know the crucial importance of CPR skills.  

On a cold evening in Leicester in September 2019, Nadeem, Ismail (both GPs) and Dilraj were enjoying their regular 7-a-side football game at a local pitch.  

Halfway through the game, Dilraj felt some tightness in his chest and took a break from the game. As he didn’t feel well, he told the goalkeeper he was going home and began to walk towards his car.  

Suddenly, Dilraj collapsed beside the pitch. The goalkeeper saw him and started shouting for help. The other players rushed over, and Nadeem and Ismail turned Dilraj onto his back. Ismail checked for a pulse, and when he couldn’t find one, Nadeem began chest compressions whilst someone else called 999.  

Both Nadeem and Ismail took turns to continue CPR whilst someone fetched a nearby defibrillator. They had put the defibrillator pads on and given one shock. After another round of compressions, Dilraj regained consciousness.  

10-15 minutes later, the ambulance arrived to take Dilraj to the local hospital. He had had a heart attack which had caused the cardiac arrest.  

Since his arrest, Dilraj has recovered well and has been able to return to playing football with his friends.  

Ismail said:  

“I personally feel privileged and honoured to have been able to help. It doesn’t take long to learn CPR, either face-to-face or online, and by learning these skills you could save someone’s life.  

“Everyone should learn CPR and how to use a defibrillator, so if someone collapses and stops breathing normally, they know what to do. 

“I’m pleased to know that RCUK are pushing training including across all communities and feel this will greatly help together with it being taught in schools too. I hope that churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other community centres can be used to promote this basic lifesaving treatment. We may then see many more people being saved.” 

Nadeem said:  

“Everyone should learn CPR. Find out how to help in an emergency,  you could save a life.” 

Dilraj said:  

“Without them I wouldn’t be here – learn CPR and how to use an AED today.” 

Restart A Heart Day, which is in its eighth year, aims to train people in how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), so they feel confident to act in an emergency. The campaign is led by Resuscitation Council UK, in partnership with St John Ambulance, the British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross and all UK ambulance services.

To learn more about Restart a Heart, visit https://resus.org.uk/rsah.


Notes to editors

Contact information

Press office: 07506 374 945

Email: pressoffice@resus.org.uk

Andrea Ttofa, Director of Engagement and Influencing, Resuscitation Council UK: andrea.ttofa@resus.org.uk

Chloe Gynne, Digital Marketing and Communications Manager, Resuscitation Council UK: chloe.gynne@resus.org.uk

Rose Obianwu, Head of Communications, NHS Race and Health Observatory: rose.obianwu@nhsrho.org

Use of photographs

Please get in touch if you are interested in using photos of Dilraj, Nadeem and Ismail. If using the photos of Dilraj, Nadeem and Ismail please credit photographer Andy Morton.

YouGov survey

YouGov carried out an online survey of 2,150 adults, of which 130 respondents were from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background, across the UK between 23rd – 24th September 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted, but are not representative of people in the BAME community.

When asked, which if any, of the following statements would you say are true or false? A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are the same thing

  % of BAME respondents
True 26%
False 41%
Don't know 33%

Note for journalists: a cardiac arrest and a heart attack are not the same thing.

If someone is in cardiac arrest, they are unresponsive, not breathing normally and are showing no movement or signs of life.

Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • chest pain – a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of your chest
  • pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy (abdomen)
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting) 
  • an overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • coughing or wheezing

For the following question, by 'CPR', we mean an emergency process where action is taken to resuscitate someone in cardiac arrest by attempting to restore their circulation through chest compressions with or without breathing through rescue breaths. Which, if any, of the following have you ever received training on (either face-to-face, or using online resources), to help someone experiencing a cardiac arrest? (Please select all that apply. If you have never received any type of training on how to help someone experiencing a cardiac arrest, please select the "Not applicable" option):

  % of BAME respondents
Chest compressions only (i.e. pressing up and down on the chest) 24%
Chest compressions and rescue breathing (i.e. mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) 30%
Using a defibrillator (i.e. an AED - a machine which can deliver an electric shock to restart the heart)   19%
Other 2%
Don't know/can't recall 16%
Not applicable - I have never received any type of training on how to help someone experiencing a cardiac arrest     

About Restart a Heart

Every October, hundreds of thousands of people across the UK – and many more worldwide – learn CPR as part of the Restart a Heart campaign.

The campaign is led in the UK by Resuscitation Council UK alongside our partners - the British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, NHS England and Improvement, Save a Life for Scotland, Save a Life Cymru, and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. Every UK Ambulance service joins in to ensure as many people as possible are trained in life-saving skills.

We lead this national training event because we know that if more people learn CPR, more lives could be saved. The campaign brings communities together, raising awareness of cardiac arrest and increasing the number of people trained in the UK.

About Resuscitation Council UK

Resuscitation Council UK is saving lives by developing guidelines, influencing policy, delivering courses and supporting cutting-edge research. Through education, training and research, we’re working towards the day when everyone in the country has the skills they need to save a life. https://resus.org.uk

About NHS Race and Health Observatory

The NHS Race and Health Observatory, an independent body hosted by the NHS Confederation and supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement, will provide evidenced recommendations with regard to long-standing health inequalities affecting ethnic minority patients and communities, including maternity and neonatal outcomes, mental health, data and digital access to healthcare – as well as the immediate challenges of the impact of the pandemic. https://www.nhsrho.org/

This short 3 minute animation explainer video outlines the Observatory’s aims and priorities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pfNsHSlbFA