Tonight: How to save a life

First Aiders Training. Photo: Tonight

Thousands of lives are being needlessly lost because Britons do not have the first aid skills to intervene in an emergency, a senior doctor has said.

Dr Andrew Lockey tells the Tonight Programme that too often members of the public won’t intervene for fear of doing harm if someone collapses in their midst.

Dr Lockey says: “If that person has had a cardiac arrest, you can do no further harm.”

Reporter Fiona Foster interviews ex-footballer Fabrice Muamba whose survival after suffering a very public cardiac arrest while playing for Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur has sparked a national campaign.

Fabrice Muamba speaks to the Tonight programme about his cardiac arrest. Credit: Tonight

He has teamed up with the Arrhythmia Alliance to campaign for many more defibrillators to be placed in the community. They greatly increase the chance of survival in cases of cardiac arrest, and the hope is that they can become as common as fire extinguishers.

And Fabrice has put his name to a 120,000 petition he delivered to 10 Downing Street demanding that emergency life saving first aid lessons are made compulsory in schools.

Fiona Foster visits Norway where compulsory first aid lessons are taught in schools – and survival rates from the condition that hit Fabrice Muamba are much better.

In directly comparable figures, some 18.5% of cardiac arrest victims survive in the UK. The survival rate is more than double at 52% in Stavanger, a region of Southwest Norway.

Reporter Fiona Foster in Stavanger Norway. Credit: Tonight

All Norwegian youngsters leave school having had life-saving first aid lessons whereas only 1 in 7 school leavers in England have received similar training.

This helps account for the fact that in Norway 95% of the population is first aid trained. In the UK, a St John Ambulance survey found that 59% of us don’t feel we could save a life in an emergency. And a quarter of UK respondents admit they would helplessly do nothing while a life is on the line.

Dr Lockey, who represents the Resuscitation Council, says that giving school pupils first aid lessons could “see thousands of lives saved every year”.

It’s a simple action. We want the government to become life savers as well. Put this on the curriculum. Make it mandatory. Let’s start improving our survival rates.

– Dr Andrew Lockey

A government spokesman told the programme:

There’s nothing to stop schools teaching these life-saving skills already, as part of their school curriculum. It’s down to headteachers to set a curriculum which best meets the needs of their pupils.

First Aiders Training. Credit: Tonight

And Tonight take three volunteers with no first aid skills, give them a morning’s training with Centurion Risk Assessment Services, then sees if they are confident enough to deal with a simulated car crash.

  • Tonight: How to Save a Life is on ITV1 at 7.30pm.