accessibility & help

Government Blocks First Aid Bill that Could Save Thousands of Lives Each Year

20 November 2015

School pupils and campaigners

Three major UK charities have today declared their disappointment at the Government’s failure to back a Private Members’ Bill to ensure all young people are given the opportunity to learn first aid in secondary schools, despite mass public support.

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

However, despite swathes of public support and backing from key bodies such as the PTA UK and the Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) the Bill, which went to its first vote in Parliament today was talked out by Government backbenchers, meaning 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 and 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.”

Mike Hobday, Director of Policy at the BHF, 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.”

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.”

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.”


Contact details for the three charities are as follows:

  • Sue Killen, CEO of St John Ambulance, call the SJA PR team on 07860 711679 or email
  • Mike Hobday, Director of Policy at the British Heart Foundation, call the BHF press office on 020 7554 0164 or out of hours on 07764 290381 or email  
  • Jonathan Ellis, Head of Policy, Research and Advocacy at the British Red Cross, call the British Red Cross Media team on 07710 391703

British Heart Foundation

For over 50 years we’ve pioneered research that’s transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help. From babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many Mums, Dads and Grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure. Join our fight for every heartbeat in the UK. Every pound raised, minute of your time and donation to our shops will help make a difference to people’s lives.

In October 2014 the BHF launched a campaign to create a Nation of Lifesavers that calls for CPR to be taught in all secondary schools. The charity will continue its fight to ensure that this happens in a bid to improve cardiac arrest survival rates across the UK. For more information on how you can support, visit: 

St John Ambulance

As the nation’s leading first aid charity, St John Ambulance believes that nobody should die because they needed first aid and didn’t get it. St John Ambulance teaches people first aid so that they can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.

About the British Red Cross

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.