accessibility & help

Government blocks first aid Bill that could save thousands of lives

20 November 2015

School pupils and campaigners

The British Red Cross and two more major UK charities have today declared their disappointment at the Government’s failure to back a Private Members’ Bill, despite mass public support. The Bill would have ensured all young people are given the opportunity to learn first aid in secondary schools.

More than 14,000 people have written to their local MP over the past two months, urging them to support Every Child a Lifesaver. This campaign was led by British Heart Foundation, the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance in support of MP Teresa Pearce’s Bill.

The Bill went to its first vote in Parliament today. However, despite swathes of public support and backing from key bodies such as the PTA UK and the Resuscitation Council UK, it was talked out by government backbenchers.

MP acknowledges first aid helps save lives

This means it has little chance of becoming law. Approximately 40 MPs turned up to allow the Bill to pass through to the next parliamentary stage.

The charities say that the majority of MPs spoke in favour of the Bill during the debate. The minister for childcare and education Sam Gyimah’s comments did positively acknowledge the importance of emergency first aid skills in helping to save lives.

However the government ultimately showed a lack of willingness to mandate training in all secondary schools.

Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith and Thamesmead who is leading the Bill, said: “The Ministers' comments about an ‘over prescribed school curriculum’ were largely irrelevant.

“If the government had taken the time to read the Bill properly they would have seen that this is not what was proposed. We appreciate the increasing pressures put on teachers and want to ensure schools have total flexibility over when and how they teach first aid - whether that be in PSHE or physical education.

“The most crucial thing is that all children have access to learn these vital skills so that no child leaves school without the knowledge or confidence of how to save a life.”

"Embarrassing"

Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross, said: “We are disappointed by the result today, but will continue to work with the government and schools across the country on the issue.

“It is vital that young people have the skills and confidence to know what to do in a medical emergency, and ultimately save lives. First aid can be easily integrated into the curriculum and we have a variety of resources to enable teachers to do so.”

Mike Hobday, director of policy at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Every year there are 30,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests in the UK and currently less than one in ten people survive. In countries where CPR is taught in schools, survival rates are up to three times as high.

“These figures speak for themselves and if we are to improve this country’s frankly embarrassing survival rates we need to ensure that every child is equipped with these essential skills at secondary school.”

Sue Killen, CEO of St John Ambulance, said: “We’re frustrated at today’s result as we believe that the opportunity to learn first aid shouldn’t be left up to chance.  We will continue to campaign for first aid in schools as parents, teachers and young people all want it.

"We can promise the thousands of people who made their feelings known that this issue hasn’t gone away.”

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