If you see someone collapsed and not breathing normally, you need to act fast so they can have the best chance of survival.
In the UK, fewer than 1 in 10 people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. This is low compared to many other countries, including Norway, where 7 out of 10 people survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
If the UK statistics are going to change, we all need to play our part in becoming CPR-ready and developing the confidence to step up in a time of need.
How to save a life
The Chain of Survival outlines the key steps that need to be taken in the event of a cardiac arrest.
The first three steps – early recognition and call for help, early CPR and early defibrillation – all depend on a speedy response by members of the public.
Early recognition and call for help
When someone has a cardiac arrest, they collapse and become unresponsive. They either stop breathing entirely, or they might take gasping or infrequent breaths for a few minutes.
If you see someone unconscious or breathing abnormally, ring 999 immediately. You’ll speak to an ambulance call handler, who will help you confirm if the person is in cardiac arrest and guide you through doing CPR and locating a defibrillator.
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is a term that embraces the different techniques used to resuscitate a person after a cardiac arrest.
There are two important skills to know when doing CPR for both adults and children:
Chest compressions: this is where you clasp your hands together and push hard and fast on the chest to help pump blood around the person’s body. You should keep a steady rhythm of about 100-120 compressions every minute. Try humming ‘Baby Shark’ or ‘Stayin’ Alive’ to help you keep the beat.
Rescue breaths: also known as ‘mouth-to-mouth’, these give the person oxygen that could help them breathe again.
We recommend doing rescue breaths if possible. For every 30 chest compressions you do, you should do 2 rescue breaths. However, you might not be able to give rescue breaths, for example if the person has blood or vomit on or in their mouth. If that’s the case, stick to chest compressions.
When it comes to CPR, the important thing is to give it a go, even if you haven’t done it before. By doing CPR in an emergency, you’re giving someone a chance of survival that they won’t have without you.
If you want to train and develop your confidence, ambulance services and community groups often run CPR training events for the public. These are a great way to learn hands-on CPR skills. Our annual training event, Restart a Heart, is the perfect way to learn CPR and connect to your community. Find out more about Restart a Heart
To learn CPR today, play our interactive game, Lifesaver. Available on desktop, tablet, mobile and as a VR experience, you’ll learn CPR by immersing yourself in realistic, high-pressure scenarios that will prepare you for an emergency.
An ambulance call handler will help you find the nearest defibrillator in an emergency. You can often find them in busy public areas such as community centres and shopping malls.
When you switch a defibrillator on, you will receive clear instructions about what to do in order to provide a shock, if a shock is needed. It won’t harm you or the person suffering a cardiac arrest and using one does increase the chance of survival.
To find out more about defibrillators, click here.
Post resuscitation care
When someone’s in cardiac arrest, it is important that they receive continuous CPR and defibrillation until they begin breathing normally again, or until emergency help can take over.
The emergency services will then take over and make sure the person gets to a hospital. There, the cause of their cardiac arrest can be diagnosed, and they will receive the treatment and care they need.
Publication - CPR, AEDs and the Law: This document aims to clarify, where possible, the obligations and responsibilities of those who attempt resuscitation in anyone suffering a suspected cardiac arrest. It also provides guidance for organisations that are contemplating providing equipment and training for those who might use it.
Publication - A guide to Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): This guide provides information about automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and how they can be used anywhere, by anyone, to try to save the life of a person who has a cardiac arrest.