The Resuscitation Council (UK) strongly supports the plea by Teresa Pearce MP to other MPs to vote on Friday 20 November to make training in first-aid and life-saving skills (cardiopulmonary resuscitation – CPR) a compulsory part of learning at school for every child in this country.
The precise number of cardiac arrests in the UK each year is uncertain, but is thought to be up to 60,000. In England the ambulance services attempt resuscitation in approximately 28,000 people, of whom less than 10% survive. 270 children die every year of sudden cardiac arrest at school, and four of every five cardiac arrests that happen out of hospitals occur in the home, yet often nobody starts CPR because they don’t know what to do. By the time the emergency services arrive valuable time has been lost and, in many cases, the chance of survival has been lost also.
Where better to start to correct this than with our school children? The Government has shown some concern; last year the Department for Education introduced a scheme enabling schools to purchase defibrillators at reduced cost. However, defibrillators alone are unlikely to save lives unless people who see or find someone when they collapse call 999 and start CPR immediately. If a defibrillator can then be used before the arrival of the ambulance service, the chance of survival increases dramatically.
Does this approach work? In 2005, CPR training became compulsory for all Danish schoolchildren over 11 years of age. In the next 6 years, the provision of CPR by members of the public more than doubled and survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest tripled. In Stockholm, when members of the public started CPR and used a defibrillator before the arrival of an ambulance 70% of people survived but, when resuscitation was delayed until an ambulance arrived, only 31% survived.
We recognise the pressures on teachers to deliver a busy curriculum and are not proposing time-consuming additions. Training in key skills can be achieved in as little as 30 minutes. Many schools around the country have taken the initiative and introduced training with great success. The cost to schools should be minimal; the British Heart Foundation is offering free CPR training kits to all secondary schools. The time has come to make this important life skill part of every child’s education so that, when faced with a collapsed person, they will be confident and competent to intervene and, whenever possible, save a life.
We encourages everyone who reads this to contact their MP via everychildalifesaver.org/action to ask them to support the Private Members Bill on 20 November.
Dr Carl Gwinnutt
President of the Resuscitation Council (UK)
Dr David Pitcher
Vice-president of the Resuscitation Council (UK)