Nearly a third of UK adults are not likely to attempt CPR, putting lives at risk

16 October 2018        

Category: Survival and support

Nearly a third of UK adults (30%) are not likely to perform CPR if they saw someone suffer a cardiac arrest, according to worrying new figures released to mark Restart a Heart Day.

We commissioned researchers from the University of Warwick Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Outcome (OHCAO) Registry team, who worked with YouGov to survey over 4,000 UK adults. Participants were asked questions about their knowledge of CPR, and whether they would feel confident in performing it on someone who had had a cardiac arrest.

These figures show that lives are still being put at risk every day because not enough people know how to perform CPR.

Restart a Heart Day is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the importance of CPR, which will see over 200,000 people trained in life saving CPR across the UK. We run the campaign in partnership with the Resuscitation Council (UK), St John Ambulance, the British Red Cross, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and ambulance trusts and fire and rescue services across the country. This year for the first time, the day will be marked globally, as training and awareness events take place for World Restart a Heart Day.

A bag with the letters CPR on the side next to a defibrillator.  

The UK campaign, which is now in its 5th year, was launched after figures revealed that less than 1 in 10 people in Britain survive an out of hospital  cardiac arrest, due to low bystander CPR rates. In countries where CPR is taught in schools, as many as 1 in 4 survive. The Westminster Government has recently announced plans to add CPR, defibrillator awareness and other lifesaving first aid skills to the national curriculum in secondary schools in England, as part of a push to save lives and improve cardiac arrest survival rates.

Commenting on these plans, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

"Knowing how to save someone's life is one of the most powerful skills you can learn. That's why we plan to teach first aid ‎as part of health education, which we intend to make compulsory in all state funded schools from 2020. I look forward to working with experts, including ‎the British Heart Foundation, as we compile teacher materials for health education‎. This change will mean pupils learn how to be safe and healthy. It's never too late to‎ learn how to be a lifesaver and I'd encourage people of all ages to learn first aid."

Progress has been made

Although 96% of those asked said they were likely to call an ambulance if they saw someone had collapsed and had stopped breathing, the time it takes for the emergency services to arrive can mean the difference between life and death. Brain tissue starts to die within 3 minutes after the heart stops, due to a lack of oxygen. Early CPR can more than double a person’s chances of survival, and can buy the time needed before paramedics arrive and provide care.

Research recently presented at the European Resuscitation Council (ERC) Conference suggests that campaigns like Restart a Heart Day are having an impact, with the data showing rates of bystander CPR increased by over 10% between 2013 and 2017. Despite these positive steps forward, today’s survey still shows a worrying gap in knowledge, which results in thousands of lives being put at risk.

Commenting on public confidence in CPR, our Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie said:

“You may not feel confident performing CPR if you haven’t been trained or you don’t remember your training; but without your early action the chances someone will survive a cardiac arrest are virtually zero. The BHF is striving to improve survival rates by creating a Nation of Lifesavers through our CPR training programmes. By raising awareness on Restart a Heart Day, we hope more people will see that CPR really can be the difference between life and death and that doing something is always better than doing nothing.”

Dr Matt Kearney, National Clinical Director for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at NHS England, remarked:

“When someone suffers a cardiac arrest their chances of survival increase dramatically if CPR is started immediately. Raising awareness and providing more people with the confidence and training they need on Restart a Heart Day is key and will save more lives.”

Get involved and learn CPR

Our Call Push Rescue CPR training kits are free to eligible UK secondary schools and are also available to order by community groups and workplaces. For more information about CPR and Restart a Heart Day visit: