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Up to 59 percent of deaths could be prevented if public knew first aid says British Red Cross

6 September 2016

Teresa Pearce MP, Will Quince MP and Anne McColl from the British Red Cross supporting the Don't stop at 999 campaign.
  • New research reveals over half of bystanders are failing to intervene in an emergency*
  • People are calling 999 then doing nothing 
  • The British Red Cross is calling for everyone in UK to learn two simple first aid skills to help save lives

Up to 59% of ‘pre-hospital’ deaths from injury could potentially be prevented if more people stepped in with some simple first aid, according to new research commissioned by the British Red Cross and conducted by the University of Manchester.

Whilst 93% will call for an ambulance if they find someone with an injury, first aid intervention of any kind was infrequent. Around half did not attempt any first aid while waiting for the emergency medical services to arrive*. The research, which has studied data from coroners’ offices, was last carried out 22 years ago by Prof Anthony Redmond of the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, who also led the new research which was conducted by Dr Govind Oliver from the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute.

The two first aid skills identified by British Red Cross as being the most essential in cases of accidental injury and trauma are:

If they are unresponsive and breathing:

  1. Open the person’s airway so they can continue to breathe. 
Do this by placing them on their side with their head tilted back.

If they are bleeding heavily: 

    2.    Stop them from bleeding to death.

Do this by putting pressure on any heavily bleeding wounds

Joe Mulligan, British Red Cross Head of First Aid Education said:

“The good news is that most people are calling 999. But after calling 999 we want people to then do something in those crucial minutes before the ambulance arrives, every person needs to recognise that in an emergency, you are part of the ‘chain of survival.”

The British Red Cross is calling for everyone in the UK to learn two basic first aid skills that could help to prevent the number of people who die from injuries, such as those resulting from falls or road traffic accidents, before reaching hospital.

 “Sadly in the majority of deaths we looked at, the simplest interventions could have helped keep someone alive until they got to hospital. For example something as simple as turning someone on their side and tilting their head back to keep their airway open – could be all it takes to make that difference between life and death in certain situations”.

The charity is also 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.

Find the report and more about the British Red Cross campaign online at:



Notes to editors


  • 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 recover and move on with their lives.


*This figure excludes those found dead

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