26 January 2018

New research shows just 5% of adults have the skills and confidence to provide first aid in emergency situations

Three UK charities call on the government to make first aid a compulsory part of the school curriculum

Three of the UK’s largest charities are seeking public support for first aid to become a compulsory part of the school curriculum, following new research which shows more than nine in ten adults (95%) would not be able to save lives in first aid emergencies. (1)

The British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and the British Heart Foundation – who together form the Every Child A Lifesaver Coalition – are calling on people throughout England to take part in the Government’s call for evidence on Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education , and join their push for first aid skills to be taught in all schools.

Research, commissioned by the British Red Cross, asked more than 2,000 UK adults about their knowledge, confidence and willingness to intervene in three potentially life-threatening first aid emergencies – helping someone who is bleeding heavily, is unresponsive and breathing, or is unresponsive and not breathing.

The findings show the vital need to provide first aid lessons in schools to address the public’s lack of knowledge and confidence to step in during a first aid emergency. The research shows:

  • Only 1 in 20 (5%) people would feel knowledgeable, confident and willing to act in those three scenarios – 95% of people would not.
  • Seven in ten adults (71%) lack the knowledge and confidence to act if someone collapsed and was unresponsive and breathing.
  • Nearly seven in ten (69%) people polled lack the knowledge and confidence to act if someone was bleeding heavily.
  • In addition to these scenarios, eight in ten adults (81%) also said they lack the knowledge and confidence to act if a baby was choking. (1)

Further research by the British Heart Foundation showed that 60% of adults would be worried about knowing what to do if they witnessed someone having a cardiac arrest and only 20% of respondents were able to correctly identify the signs of a cardiac arrest (2).

Meanwhile, a survey by St John Ambulance shows that 80% of people feel that first aid lessons should be compulsory in all schools. (3)

But by making it compulsory for every child to receive just one hour of first aid education a year as part of PSHE, hundreds of thousands of young people could be empowered with the skills to save a life. Take part in the call for evidence by visiting https://e-activist.com/page/18036/action/1

Joe Mulligan, Head of First Aid Education at the British Red Cross, said: “When an emergency strikes, giving first aid could save someone’s life.  We all hope that someone would be able to help us in an emergency, but our research shows that few people feel they have the skills and confidence to act in some serious situations.

“By taking part in the government’s call for evidence and making first aid a mandatory part of PSHE on the national curriculum, you could help us empower future generations with the simple but vital skills to save someone’s life in an emergency."

The Every Child a Lifesaver Coalition is asking teachers, parents, young people, and anyone who feels passionately about getting first aid taught in schools, to take part in the call for evidence.

Carl Makins, Head of Training at St John Ambulance,  said: “Children attend school for more than 1,000 hours a year; we’re asking for just one hour of that curriculum for them to learn first aid skills that will last a lifetime and might one day enable them to be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.’

Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “CPR really is the difference between life and death for thousands of people every year in the UK who suffer a cardiac arrest. Every second counts, so it is vital that school children across the UK are equipped with this simple, life-saving skill. It takes less than an hour to learn CPR, so dedicating just one PSHE lesson per year could create a generation of lifesavers.”

The government’s call for evidence Changes to the teaching of Sex and Relationship Education and PSHE closes on Monday 12th February 2018.

Take part in the call for evidence by visiting https://e-activist.com/page/18036/action/1  



For further information: 
Anthony Barej,  Media Officer AnthonyBarej@redcross.org.uk 
Jackie McMillan , PR Manager 020 78875069 jacquelinemcmillan@redcross.org.uk 
Joanne Shepherd, PR manager joanne.shepherd@sja.org.uk 07956 599477 
Rachel Sacks, Senior Media Officer sacksr@bhf.org.uk 0207 554 0214

Spokespeople: Spokespeople and case studies available on request.

Contact number: 

  • British Red Cross Press Office - 0207 877 7519 
     Out of hours, 07719 391703
  • SJA Press Office – 020 7324 4213 Out of hours, 07860 711679
  • British Heart Foundation Press Office – 0207 554 0164 Out of hours, 07764290381

Notes to editors

  1. The findings come from an online survey of 2,004 adults in the UK conducted by Critical Research, in April 2017.
    YouGov Survey - Figures are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4306 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14th - 18th September 2017.  The survey was carried out online.
  2. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  3. The research was conducted by Censuswide (which was formerly known as Opinion Matters) and it was of 2002 UK adults, 31st August – 2rd September.2016

About the Every Child a Life Saver Coalition
The Every Child a Lifesaver campaign brings together the British Red Cross, British Heart Foundation, and St John Ambulance who are committed to creating a new generation of lifesavers. We believe this can be achieved by first aid being introduced as a mandatory element of statutory PSHE subject. This will ensure children and young people are given the skills and confidence to know what to do in an emergency, and to gain skills and knowledge which aid their personal and academic development.

We are part of the PSHE Association’s Strategic Partners, who have been working collaboratively with Members of Parliament to secure a Backbench Business Debate on 6th February 9.30 am.