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 (1).
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.
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 (1). 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 (2) as rates of bystander CPR are as low as 39% (3) 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%) (1).
Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a person's chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around ten per cent (4). If CPR is taught more widely, it's estimated that thousands of lives could be saved every year (6).
A survey conducted by the BHF (5) 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.
Prof Gavin Perkins, Professor of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Warwick, who led the research, said, "Our research shows just how important it is for everyone to learn CPR. It is staggering to think that 1 in 5 of us will at some point have the opportunity to save a life by giving CPR.
"CPR is a vital step in the chain of survival after a cardiac arrest. The chance of surviving is almost zero if people collapse and receive no bystander CPR until the emergency services arrive. Thousands of deaths could be prevented if more people learn CPR."
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, 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."
Federico Moscogiuri, Chief Executive Officer of the Resuscitation Council (UK), said, "The young people who receive CPR training today will become the lifesavers of tomorrow. Today, over 150,000 young people will receive both face-to-face and online instruction through our free Lifesaver app, which can be played on a mobile device anytime, anywhere and downloaded from Lifesaver.org.uk. The CPR these young people learn today will be a skill they carry with them throughout their lives."
Dr. Andrew Lockey, Honorary Secretary of the Resuscitation Council (UK), said, "For this year's Restart a Heart day, we will see unprecedented numbers of young people being taught the vital lifesaving skill of CPR. Endeavours ranging from individual effort through to nationally coordinated activity will show that there is a desire to improve the chances of survival for victims of cardiac arrest. Everyone can be a lifesaver and the skills are easy to learn, either online or with face-to-face training. Most out of hospital cardiac arrests happen in the home, so everyone should ensure that they are those around them are skilled up to save a life."
Jason Carlyon, Clinical Development Manager for Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said,
"Since we pioneered the mass CPR training event at Yorkshire's secondary schools with our partners on Restart a Heart Day in 2014, we have seen improvements in our out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates as well as an increase in the number of people willing to use CPR when someone suffers the ultimate medical emergency. The value of events like Restart a Heart Day cannot be underestimated."
Mel Fox, Director of Training at St John Ambulance, said, "We're thrilled that so many schools have chosen to take part, and we recognise that many more train first aid at other times of the year. Now's the time for first aid education to be available to all our young people. Learning CPR and other life saving skills should be part of their passage into adulthood and with many free resources available for schools like our Big First Aid Lesson on 3rd November, there is plenty of opportunity for children to become life savers."
Joe Mulligan, head of first aid education at The British Red Cross said, "We want all young people to feel confident and willing to help when faced with a first aid emergency. Learning first aid helps to increase confidence levels and we believe it's a life skill everyone should have.
"Ultimately the British Red Cross would like everyone to have the opportunity to learn first aid throughout their lives, starting at school, so that a generation of people can be equipped with the skills they need to help in an emergency.
"Our free teaching resources and workshops are designed to give young people the skills, confidence and willingness to act in an emergency."
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."
There are more than 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests across the UK every year but less than one in ten people survive. Mandatory training of all secondary school children in CPR would improve this rate of survival.
The BHF's Call Push Rescue CPR training kit is free for eligible secondary schools in the UK. Accredited by The PSHE Association for use in PSHE and PSE lessons, the kit comprises quality training equipment and resources needed to teach children life saving CPR skills.