How to do CPR
We are determined to increase the survival rates of people who have a cardiac arrest. Learn to do CPR and join us in creating a Nation of Lifesavers.
If you come across someone who is unconscious, always check for danger. Approach them with care. Look out for hazards such as fire, traffic and electricity and never put yourself at risk. Then:
- Check for a response: Gently shake the person’s shoulders and ask loudly ‘are you alright?’
- Shout for help: If someone is nearby, ask them to stay - you might need them. If you are alone shout loudly to attract attention, but do not leave the person.
- Open their airway: Place one hand on the person’s forehead, gently tilt their head back, then lift their chin using two fingers of your other hand under their chin – when you do this you open their airway.
Keeping their head back, check if the person is breathing normally by looking for regular chest movements, listening for breathing, and feeling for breath on your cheek. Look, listen and feel for no more than 10 seconds.
If you're sure the person is breathing normally then put them in the recovery position and call 999.
Don’t confuse gasps with normal breathing. If you’re not sure if their breathing is normal, act as if it's not normal.
Now remember: Call, Push, Rescue.
If the person is not breathing or not breathing normally:
- Ask someone to call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
- Ask for a defibrillator too.
Or if you are alone with the person, call 999 before you start CPR.
Push hard and fast on the centre of the chest.
- Kneel next to the person.
- Place the heel of one hand in the centre of their chest. Place your other hand on top of the first. Interlock your fingers. You'll find it easier if you have the hand you write with on top.
- With straight arms, use the heel of your hand to push the breastbone down firmly and smoothly, so that the chest is pressed down between 5–6 cm and release.
- Do this at a rate of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute – that’s almost 2 per second.
- Give 30 chest compressions. You may find it helpful to count out loud.
Give rescue breaths.
- Open the airway again by tilting the head back and lifting the chin. Pinch the soft part of the person’s nose closed.
- Take a normal breath, make a seal around their mouth and breathe out steadily.
- The person’s chest should rise and fall. Keeping the person’s head back and the chin lifted, take your mouth away, take another normal breath and give a second rescue breath. The two breaths should take no longer than five seconds.
- Repeat 30 compressions and 2 rescue breaths.
If you’d rather not give rescue breaths then call 999 and deliver Hands-only CPR. That’s better than doing nothing.
Keep going until professional help arrives and takes over, or the person starts to show signs of regaining consciousness, such as coughing, opening their eyes, speaking, or breathing normally.
If you are exhausted, instruct someone to continue while you regain energy.
Learn CPR with our Heartstart courses
Heartstart courses teach you CPR and other emergency lifesaving skills and they are free to attend.
These courses differ from our Call Push Rescue training (where you watch and learn using an educational film) because the training is delivered by an accredited instructor.
There are over 3,800 Heartstart schemes across the UK supported by the BHF.