Leading organisations call for overhaul of cardiac arrest treatment

6 March 2017        

Category: Survival and support


Leading organisations are calling for an overhaul of treatment for cardiac arrest patients to prevent thousands of deaths every year in the UK.

A new report, Resuscitation to Recovery, published today, reveals that currently just 8 per cent of patients survive a cardiac arrest in England, and less than half (30-40%) of bystanders intervene when they witness someone collapse.

Survival rates in other parts of the world are much higher, prompting clinicians in NHS England, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and other leading health organisations to develop new guidance for patient care, from resuscitation to recovery.

The bold plans aim to create a cultural shift in attitudes towards performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and support NHS England’s wider plans to improve Urgent & Emergency Care services.

Thousands of lives could be saved

It is hoped that this could help save thousands more lives every year. The new guidance brings together evidence from world-leading experts including NHS clinicians, and have been supported and endorsed by several major associations, societies and research institutions.

The recommendations include:
Greater awareness amongst the general public of recognising a cardiac arrest and knowing how to perform CPR
All pupils at secondary schools should learn CPR techniques
Collaboration between ambulance and fire services, police and first responders to ensure that a CPR lifesaver can be at the scene with a defibrillator as soon as possible
All resuscitated patients to be taken straight to specialist cardiac arrest centres
All recovering patients should be assessed for rehabilitation to improve chances of maintaining quality of life

In England, resuscitation is attempted in around 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests each year. The chance of survival for these patients is almost zero if someone collapses and no bystander CPR is attempted. 

Simply waiting for the emergency services to arrive means that many lives that could be saved are actually lost. Fewer than half of adults feel able to intervene when they witness someone having a cardiac arrest, partly because of a lack of confidence and training.

CPR can help treble survival 

But today’s report, Resuscitation to Recovery, emphasises that bystander intervention can help treble the chances of survival.

Professor Huon Gray, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease, NHS England, said: “Thousands of deaths from cardiac arrests could be prevented every year, but we need to work with the public, the emergency services and hospitals in order to achieve this. This new guidance sets out the best care for a patient, from the moment they’re found collapsed, to their recovery in hospital and subsequent rehabilitation.

“Currently, there is significant variation in treatment around the country so it is vital that we provide all people with the best possible chances of survival, wherever they live. This report offers the recently established Urgent & Emergency Networks a blueprint for how this could be achieved.”

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, our Medical Director, said: “Cardiac arrest survival rates in England are disappointingly low and have remained so for many years,
“There is potential to save thousands of lives but we urgently need to change how we think about cardiac arrest care. It’s clear that we need a revolution in CPR by educating more people in simple lifesaving skills and the use of external defibrillators, and for the subsequent care of a resuscitated patient to be more consistent and streamlined.”