One in five witness someone collapse who requires CPR but the majority do not act

16 October 2017        

Category: Research

An estimated one in five adults in the UK witness someone collapse who needs immediate CPR, yet the majority of people do not act, according to new research funded by the British Heart Foundation.

CPR training in school

The surprising findings have been released today on Restart a Heart Day – an annual day to increase awareness of the importance of CPR. This year, more than 150,000 young people across the UK will be trained in CPR in the largest ever event of its kind.

Cardiac arrest survival rates in the UK have remained stubbornly low and a collaboration of leading organisations are calling for all young people to be trained in CPR to help save more lives.

The BHF, Resuscitation Council (UK), St John Ambulance, British Red Cross, Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) and all the UK NHS ambulance services along with Fire & Rescue services are working together to address this.

Improving survival rates

Researchers at the University of Warwick carried out a survey of 2,000 people across the country to find out how likely people are to witness a life-threatening cardiac arrest. In addition to the vast numbers of people who have seen someone suffer a cardiac arrest, they also found that people were nearly three times more likely to perform CPR if they had received training. This highlights the importance of learning CPR to help improve survival rates.

Survival rates for out of hospital cardiac arrest in the UK are still worryingly low with less than one in ten people surviving. The BHF estimates that 10,000 people die every year in the UK as rates of bystander CPR are as low as 39% in some parts of the country. This is significantly worse than other places such as the Netherlands (66%), Seattle (69%), Victoria, Australia (69%) and Norway (73%).

Every second counts

Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around ten per cent. If CPR is taught more widely, it’s estimated that thousands of lives could be saved every year.

Speaking about the importance of CPR our Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie, said: “CPR is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest. Every second counts, and it simply isn’t enough to hope that someone who knows CPR is present. We need everyone to learn this life-saving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest. That’s why we are urging secondary schools across the UK to apply for our free training kits and help create a Nation of Lifesavers.”

CPR skills in schools

Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director for NHS England said: “When one in five people witness someone collapsing who clearly needs CPR but the majority don’t feel able to help, it’s time to act. Teaching CPR to school children equips them with the knowledge that will ensure they can act in times of need. Empowering a young person with such a skill will allow them to take control in such a situation and possibly ultimately save a life.”

A survey conducted by the BHF revealed that an overwhelming 89% of respondents also believe that CPR should be taught in all schools in the UK. The same survey showed that there is a significant reluctance to perform CPR with 40% of respondents stating that they lacked the skills and knowledge to perform CPR.

On and around 16 October, events will be taking place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in a bid to create over 150,000 new young lifesavers on Restart a Heart Day.

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