Teach primary school pupils CPR and other life-saving skills from age nine

Teach primary school pupils CPR and other life-saving skills from age nine to tackle low cardiac arrest survival rates, say top doctors

  • 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest every year, fewer than one in seven survive
  • Doctors want young people to be taught skills to boost current survival rates 
  • Experts say lack of knowledge means paramedics often arrive too late to help  

Leading doctors are calling for children as young as nine to be taught CPR and other life-saving skills in primary schools.

Some 30,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest in the UK every year, and fewer than one in seven survive.

The doctors spearheading the push believe introducing basic life-saving skills at a young age will ‘make it seem like the most natural thing in the world’ and improve survival rates.

The doctors spearheading the push believe introducing basic life-saving skills at a young age will ‘make it seem like the most natural thing in the world’ and improve survival rates

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body.

If the heart is not kept going through CPR and then restarted the patient can die within minutes – making it far more serious than a heart attack, which occurs when there is a blockage in an artery.

Experts believe a key reason for poor survival rates is very few people know how to resuscitate someone if they suffer a cardiac arrest, which means when paramedics arrive it is often too late.

Dr Ada Ezihe-Ejiofor, a consultant anaesthetist at Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London, said the UK’s low survival rates and lack of first-aid education compared to our European neighbours were ‘embarrassing’.

She added: ‘We are just next-door neighbours to these people.

‘How is it that the Norwegians have a survival rate of one in four, when ours is only around seven? It’s because they have been teaching CPR in schools since 1961.

‘The figures will only change once this becomes more than a one-off.

How YOU can use CPR to help restart someone’s heart  

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be used to try to restart someone’s heart if it has stopped.

CPR should only be used in an emergency situation if someone is unconscious and not breathing.

People without CPR training should stick to hands-only chest compressions, the NHS says.

To carry out a chest compression:

Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone at the centre of the person’s chest. Place your other hand on top of your first hand and interlock your fingers.

Position yourself with your shoulders above your hands.

Using your body weight (not just your arms), press straight down by 5-6cm (2-2.5 inches) on their chest.

Keeping your hands on their chest, release the compression and allow the chest to return to its original position.

Repeat these compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute until an ambulance arrives or you become exhausted.

Source: NHS 

‘At school we have their attention, they are the right age and we can make this seem like the most natural thing in the world if we build it into the school system. Yes, it will take a little while, but at the other end is we’ll have a whole community of children who’ve grown up with these skills and who know what to do.

‘We need a critical mass of people in the community with these skills for us to be able to turn our numbers around.’ The Government announced in January that from September 2020 it will be compulsory for all children to be trained in CPR by the time they leave secondary school aged 16 – but doctors believe it should be introduced much earlier in the school system.

Dr Ezihe-Ejiofor is leading a voluntary programme training children how to do CPR – but she believes this should become routine.

Last week she and 20 other medical volunteers led a training morning in South London for the annual Restart a Heart day.

More than 70 primary school children aged between nine and ten were invited to Ivydale Primary School in Lambeth.

Split into groups of around a dozen pupils and four instructors, they were taught how to react when someone collapses using mannequins and the acronym ‘DRS ABC’ (Danger, response, shout, airways, breathing, CPR).

Deputy Headteacher Judith Lambert said: ‘Hopefully they will remember the fundamentals. If you learn it at an early enough age you can keep that skill with you for life.

‘As an adult if you learn something it becomes much harder to remember but if it becomes part of their understanding now then they can use it at any point.’ Shakira Kamara, 9, from Loughborough primary school in Lambeth, added: ‘It’s important we learn about things like this because if something bad happened we would be prepared.

‘I would feel more confident now because we’ve practiced and seen what to do.’ Dr James Cant, chief executive of the Resuscitation Council UK said: ‘CPR saves lives. We encourage young people to learn CPR and have the confidence to use it in an emergency, as it truly is a skill for life.’ A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘It is important that all children are taught basic skills that could save lives, which is why first aid will be a compulsory part of Health Education from 2020.

‘All primary school pupils will be taught about how to contact the emergency services and basic first aid – and if schools feel it’s appropriate they can teach CPR.’  


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