Why valuing good quality first aid training is so important to survival rates.

Why does good first aid training matter?

The UK currently has one of the lowest survival rates in the developed world. Current survival rates for cardiac arrest (unresponsive, none breathing casualty) stands at just under 9%. We should point out, this has improved from 6%, however is still well below 20-25% seen in countries such as Norway and Denmark.

Why valuing good quality first aid training is so important to survival rates.

In our previous article we questioned why businesses do not value first aid training, it is very clear that in the UK, our lack of training is directly linked to survival rates. Schools in England will soon be taught vital life saving skills, however Wales has decided not to teach CPR in schools.

So what do other countries do well? A clear understanding, that education will improve survival rates, is essential to increasing how many people survive after suffering a cardiac arrest.

We see bystander CPR attempted in less than half of all cardiac arrests in this country, this links with statistics that only 40% of our population Is trained in this vital skill. Compare this to a country like Hungary which covers CPR training in their driving test, or Denmark who teaches all school children first aid, it is clear to see that more people who know how to do effective CPR will result in more people attempting to do it, increasing survival rates.

Survival rates are not the whole picture!

After years of teaching, we get to hear a lot of myths still circulating. In the UK. We still have people who take information on essential first aid skills from Facebook, or from what their parents did. A silver spoon in the mouth for seizures, or toothpaste on a burn as immediate treatment.

We do not rely on parents to teach children maths, English, sciences in this country. We understand it is crucial to cover these subjects to a high standard as part of a national curriculum. So why are life saving skills, that could easily prolong someone’s life any different?

Examples of lower level issues are key. Someone has just badly burnt their foot, they have managed to put it in a deep fat fryer whilst changing a filter above it. The first aiders are not trained, so they put ice on the burn. This then sticks to the burn and makes it worse.

Another example is two people sat on top of a casualty suffering a seizure to try and stop the fitting, resulting in unnecessary cuts and the potential for broken bones.

Surely this would never happen in the UK? Well both of these stories are true, and we could list many others.

We look at UK survival rates for the worst-case scenario, but many others are suffering unnecessary life changing injuries, which could be significantly helped with good first aid knowledge.

The best example of this was the campaign about acid attacks. Covered nationally in the press and on TV, education clearly worked. People rushed to get cold water to flood the effected area, resulting in a huge reduction in the severity of burns to those that suffered these terrible attacks.

Should we wait for the government and HSE to get tough on first aid, or should we do something right now?

The HSE has just issued a bulletin strongly recommending minimum standards are met for first aid at work, ensuring due diligence is carried out when selecting first aid training providers.  

However there are concerns that business and providers will not take these warnings seriously. However we strongly recommend you do, as this is a clear first step before further action is taken to ensure minimum standards are met.

We simply can not wait for the government and HSE to get tough on first aid provision. We need to start taking action now.

Most businesses will currently do the bare minimum to meet legal and insurance requirements. Typically this means staff attending a one day Emergency First Aid at Work course. The ratio of staff to first aiders is usually 1 to 50, occasionally slightly less to cover leave. Why does this matter?

If you are operating a large site, it could take first aiders some time to reach a casualty. An example of this is the Alton Towers incident. It took first aiders 15 minutes to arrive on scene. This is an extreme case, due to the size of the site, and the difficulty in reaching the causalities at height. Merlin has excellent first aid provisions and safety systems, however 15 minutes is very slow and could easily be life changing.

This is echoed across other businesses. A first aider could be floors away, or even in another building. There can be an expectation for staff to wait for the arrival of this person, wasting time, and resulting in an increased risk of serious injury or fatality.

What could be done for your employees right now?

Ensuring an adequate risk assessment is important. However we currently offer a range of options to business.

Personally we would recommend a series of 45 minutes sessions for large offices, covering the basics of CPR, AED, and recovery position. This has been shown to get staff enthused about the need for good first aid.

Once this session has been covered, we can then gauge the enthusiasm for further training. A well developed plan involves having motivated staff within a short distance of any injury. Would it be feasible to lose some staff for a day, and others for 3 days, to attend the more comprehensive First Aid at Work course.  This would mean we have a good selection of staff across each building and floor, but also have higher trained individuals with more training and knowledge to take over when they arrive.

An ideal situation would be 100% of staff attending the 45 minute sessions, 25% of staff attending the 1 day course, and 10% of staff attending the 3 day course. This is a large outlay in training, but as mentioned above, due to the reduction in serious or fatal injuries, this cost should easily be recouped due to the reduction in lost work days.

The ethical approach to life saving skills.

There is also the debate about whether business could themselves raise survival rates in the UK. If every business decided to act on the above advice, we would see a large increase in those who could attempt CPR, and therefore get closer to other developed countries. So what are you waiting for? Maybe today is the day you should act, as we never know when the worst may happen.