First aid skills shortage in the UK

26 January 2018        

Category: Survival and support

Three of the UK’s largest charities are seeking public support for first aid to become a compulsory part of the school curriculum, following new research which shows more than nine in ten adults (95%) would not be able to save lives in first aid emergencies.

CPR training in school

Along with the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance, the British Heart Foundation is calling on people throughout England to take part in the Government’s call for evidence on Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE), and join their push for first aid skills to be taught in all schools.

Research commissioned by the British Red Cross asked more than 2,000 UK adults about their knowledge, confidence and willingness to intervene in three potentially life-threatening first aid emergencies – helping someone who is bleeding heavily, is unresponsive and breathing, or is unresponsive and not breathing. 

The findings show the vital need to provide first aid lessons in schools to address the public’s lack of knowledge and confidence to step in during a first aid emergency. The research shows:

  • Only 1 in 20 people would feel knowledgeable, confident and willing to act in those three scenarios – 95% of people would not.
  • Seven in ten adults lack the knowledge and confidence to act if someone collapsed and was unresponsive and breathing.
  • Nearly seven in ten people polled lack the knowledge and confidence to act if someone was bleeding heavily.
  • In addition to these scenarios, eight in ten adults also said they lack the knowledge and confidence to act if a baby was choking.

Further research we carried out in 2017 showed that 60% of adults would be worried about knowing what to do if they witnessed someone having a cardiac arrest and only 20% of respondents were able to correctly identify the signs of a cardiac arrest.

Meanwhile, a survey by St John Ambulance shows that 80% of people feel that first aid lessons should be compulsory in all schools.

Speaking about the importance of CPR, our Chief Executive Simon Gillespie, said: “CPR really is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest. Every second counts, so it is vital that school children across the UK are equipped with this simple, life-saving skill. It takes less than an hour to learn CPR, so dedicating just one PSHE lesson per year could create a generation of lifesavers.”

By making it compulsory for every child to receive just one hour of first aid education a year as part of PSHE, hundreds of thousands of young people could be empowered with the skills to save a life.

Have your say

The government’s call for evidence Changes to the teaching of Sex and Relationship Education and PSHE closes on Monday 12 February 2018.

Take part in the call for evidence