How to do CPR

If you witness a cardiac arrest, it’s crucial to call 999 and start CPR immediately. Read this page to learn how to do CPR and watch our CPR training video for a step-by-step demonstration.


To learn how to perform CPR, follow these simple steps:

  • Step 1: Shake and shout
  • Step 2: Check for normal breathing
  • Step 3: Call 999
  • Step 4: Give 30 chest compressions
  • Step 5: Give two rescue breaths
  • Step 6: Repeat until an ambulance arrives

Remember – even if you haven't been trained in CPR with rescue breathing, you can still use hands-only CPR.

CPR steps

To learn more about performing CPR in an emergency, read the rest of this page and scroll down for our CPR training video.

Step 1: Shake and shout

If you come across someone who is unconscious, always check for danger and look for risks before you start helping.

  • Check for a response – gently shake the person’s shoulders and ask loudly 'are you alright?'CPR demonstration of shaking and shouting for help
  • Shout for help – if someone is nearby, ask them to stay as you might need them. If you are alone, shout loudly to attract attention, but don't leave the person.

Step 2: Check for normal breathing

Someone having a cardiac arrest won’t be breathing, or won’t be breathing normally. They also won’t be conscious.

Keeping their head back, check if the person is breathing normally by looking for:

  • regular chest movementsCPR demonstration of checking for normal breathing
  • listening for breathing
  • feeling for breath on your cheek.

Look, listen and feel for no more than 10 seconds. Don’t confuse gasps with normal breathing. If you’re not sure if their breathing is normal, act as if it's not normal.

  • If you're sure the person is breathing normally, then put them in the recovery position and call 999.
  • If breathing isn’t normal, 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.

Step 3: Call 999

If the person is not breathing or not breathing normally:CPR demonstration of calling 999

If you can’t find anyone to help, call 999 before you start CPR.  

Step 4: Give 30 chest compressions

  • Kneel next to the person.CPR demonstration of chest compressions
  • Place the heel of one hand in the centre of their chest. Place your other hand on top of the first. Interlock your fingers.
  • 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 around 2 per second.
  • Give 30 chest compressions.

Step 5: Give two rescue breathsCPR demonstration of giving 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.

Step 6: Repeat until an ambulance arrives

  • Repeat 30 compressions and two 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’re feeling tired, and there’s someone nearby to help, instruct them to continue.

CPR demonstration video

Learn CPR with our Heartstart courses

Heartstart courses are free to attend and teach you emergency life saving skills, including CPR.

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 instructor.

Find a course near you