In his blog, child branch student editor Gary Williams asks why basic first aid training in not mandatory and discusses the impact we could be having on people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest
Volunteering has been a massive part of being a student nurse for me. It has helped me to gain valuable experience on my own terms. Over the last few weeks I’ve been volunteering with a couple of the First Responders from the Lincolnshire Voluntary Integrated Emergency Service (LIVES) to teach 35 Cub Scouts how to perform CPR, use a defibrillator and perform basic first aid.
In the UK there are around 60,000 cardiac arrests per year, of which only 28,000 have CPR performed by ambulance services. And of those, the rate of successful resuscitation is less than 10%.
“These children may have survived if CPR had been started earlier or a correct technique used”
Thankfully the chance of sudden cardiac death in children is relatively low, but this in itself has the effect of people being unprepared as they don’t expect a child or young person to have such a complication.
One such example recently reported is that of 17 year-old Charlie Allison, a seemingly healthy young man and a keen sportsman. He collapsed whilst using the school gym. He is thankfully now doing well due to the quick response of his teachers in performing CPR.
However, four in five arrests happen at home or out in the community. In the UK around 270 children die every year of sudden cardiac death. They may have survived if CPR had been started earlier or a correct technique used.
“The government are unwilling to make the teaching of a basic skill for survival compulsory in schools”
Luckily the Scout Association include basic first aid and basic life support in their first aid staged badges for their 390,929 youth members, as well as their leaders.
However the government are unwilling to make the teaching of a basic skill for survival compulsory in schools. On the 20 November 2015 only 40 MPs turned out to support the Emergency First Aid Education Bill, designed so that first aid and CPR in every state funded secondary school is compulsory, and as a result the Bill was unable to pass through to the next stage of Parliamentary scrutiny. Without this backing schools cannot justify the large expense in time and money that it would take to teach their pupils this skill.
“In 2005 it became compulsory for Danish children aged over 11 years to learn CPR”
Before training the Cubs we asked them what they knew about CPR. 90% of them knew they had to press on the body but most had no idea how. Many believed it was the abdomen that they should be pumping.
In 2005 it became compulsory for Danish children aged over 11 years to learn CPR. Since then the number of cases of public provision of CPR has more than doubled and survival rates have tripled.
So what’s my point?
In recent years there has been a massive drive for volunteers to make a difference with schemes like Radio 1’s Million Hours (#1millionhours) helping to highlight this.
“We could have a huge impact on the issue of community cardiac arrest survival rates”
Currently, there are 19,000 new students starting nursing training each year, which means there are approximately 75,000 students out there learning and using these skills at any one time. We could have a huge impact on the issue of community cardiac arrest survival rates.
Well with only 3,117 state secondary schools in the UK we could split off into groups of 20 and visit each of these schools over the next year. In less than 30 minutes the basics could be taught creating an army of 2.7 million children from years 7 to 11 who would know how to handle a situation of cardiac arrest in their friends, family and wider community.
These numbers are staggering and may make all the difference. It certainly would to people like Charlie, who if he had been out playing football with his friends perhaps rather than being in school, the outcome could have been very different. Why are we taking this risk?