More than 50% of pre-hospital deaths preventable with simple first aid

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Written by Agnes Chambre on 8 September 2016 in News
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Dozens of MPs from across party lines turned up to the launch of the new British Red Cross report this week and showed their support for mandatory first aid education.

The Red Cross is calling for more opportunities to learn first aid throughout one’s lifetime. Flickr: Mark Hillary

Last year, Labour MP Teresa Pearce presented a Private Members’ Bill to the House of Commons. Had it passed, it would have made Emergency First Aid education a statutory requirement for all state-funded secondary schools in England.

Whilst, like most PMBs, it failed to make it through the Commons, Pearce has not stopped campaigning for the cause.

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This week, the British Red Cross launched a new report which shows the lifesaving potential of first aid at an event in the House of Commons, which saw the attendance of over 40 MPs from across party lines and representing constituencies across the UK.

The research conducted by the University of Manchester, revealed that up to 59 per cent of pre-hospital deaths from injury were potentially preventable if simple first aid had been used. While 93 per cent will call for an ambulance if they find someone with an injury, first aid intervention of any kind was infrequent.

Yet simple actions, such as turning someone on their side and tilting their head back to open the airway and applying pressure to stem blood flow, could have made all the difference.

The Red Cross is calling for more opportunities to learn first aid throughout one’s lifetime, starting at school, but also through the driving test and public health initiatives. MPs agreed that ensuring the next generation is first aid capable simply makes sense and could save countless lives.

“It’s just a no brainer,” Ms Pearce explained during her speech at the event. She said that after her PMB, “people would stop me in the street and say they couldn’t believe this isn’t a law already”.

Labour MP Liz McInnes told PoliticsHome it is “absolutely important” to introduce this mandatory education. “I think it's absolutely key that we get this instilled in people at an early age that there are just very simple things that they can do. Nobody's asking them to perform complicated medical operations but just putting somebody in the recovery position is something that everybody should be aware of.”

Conservative MP Will Quince, who hosted the event and proposed a 10 minute rule bill last year which would have required first time drivers to have first aid training prior to getting their licences, said: “It is quite shocking that people are dying when their lives could potentially have been saved through simple actions. This highlights a serious need for our population to be more widely educated in first aid.”

Supporters of the campaign also pointed out that educating the public in first aid allows people to ‘take control’ of situations and could potentially alleviate pressure from the NHS.

Conservative MP Peter Aldous, head of APPG on First Aid, said: “Our NHS, our public services, are under an awful lot of pressure, financial pressure, ageing population, limited funds and a whole host of needs which are all very well deserving and if we can ourselves take a little bit of that pressure off them, well it's going to save them valuable money and it's also going to save a life.”

Ms Pearce said this sense of empowerment gained by first aid education is essential, not only for the victim, but for the bystander. She recounted the story of one MP “who spoke about being a teenager when his father collapsed in front of him in a department store…he said the terror he felt, that he had absolutely no idea what to do, and had it been a fatality, he would have lived the rest of his life with the thought that he stood by while his father died.”

Anne McColl, Director of Education at the Red Cross, echoed these sentiments, saying that if people do not have the skills and confidence to help they may end up “effectively watching while a person is dying.”

“In the Red Cross, we all have a vision of society where we all have lifesaving skills, the confidence and the willingness to act and to step forward to help someone in a crisis. A society where everyone is ready to save a life, not just the trained few

“Don't stop at 999, simple actions save lives. I can save a life and so can you.”

The research, which analysed data from coroners’ offices in Cheshire and Manchester, was last carried out 22 years ago by Professor Anthony Redmond who also oversaw this latest project.

Find out more about the British Red Cross’ #Dontstopat999 campaign here.

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