Why life-saving skills must form part of the new curriculum in Wales

Less than one in ten people in the UK who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive. Between April 2016 and March 2017, the Welsh Ambulance Service responded to 5,800 calls to attend cardiac arrest of which 2,832 resulted in a resuscitation attempt.

Time is a crucial factor when someone experiences a cardiac arrest. For every minute after a cardiac arrest without CPR, a person’s chances of survival decrease by up to 10%.

A person’s chance of survival after a cardiac arrest can be doubled through CPR in some cases. CPR ensures that blood continues to be pumped around the body and to reach the brain when the heart is unable to carry out this job.

At the start of this year, the UK Government announced that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid training are to be included as part of the school curriculum in England.

In Scotland all 32 local councils have committed to teaching CPR in schools, but regrettably it is not on the curriculum here in Wales.  

In countries such as Norway where CPR is already more widely taught in schools, survival rates as high as one in four have been reported. Evidence from places such as Denmark and Seattle in the United States shows that adopting best practice in an emergency response and legislating for training in schools can significantly improve survival rates.   

The Red Cross recently commissioned research that was carried out by the University of Manchester Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute which found that up to 59 per cent of deaths from injury may have been prevented had first aid been carried out before the arrival of the emergency medical services.

Wales’ cardiac arrest survival needs to be improved. Teaching our young people at schools the skills they need to intervene through CPR will help to give people in Wales the best possible chance of survival.

A mapping exercise conducted by the British Red Cross,  St John Cymru, and the British Heart Foundation shows that almost 40% of schools in Wales had received no training in lifesaving skills by any of the three organisations by March of this year. Worryingly, the areas with the lowest percentage of coverage included Conwy at 3%, Gwynedd at 3.6 % and Anglesey at 3.8%.

It is crucial that life-saving skills form part of the new curriculum in Wales which is being developed to address these inconsistencies. Under the roll-out arrangements of the new curriculum, children from Year 8 and above will continue to receive an education based on the current curriculum. This means that they face a postcode lottery of learning how to save a life in an emergency. This is not acceptable.

No one should die because they needed first aid and didn’t get it; Wales has the chance to train a generation of lifesavers in our schools and we should get on with it.