61% of people wouldn't know what to do if faced with a cardiac arrest - St John Ambulance

Posted On: 
4th December 2017

Thousands of families experience the impact of cardiac arrest each year but if those around them knew what to do, the chance of survival could increase to up to 70%, says Dr Lionel Jarvis, Chair of St John Ambulance.

Credit: 
PA Images

Everyone wants to save a life. As a doctor of medicine I have been privileged to oversee the rapid delivery of emergency care and resuscitation in war zones and in remote parts of the world. As the Chair of the first aid charity St John Ambulance I observe that the same stages of the chain of survival – recognising a cardiac arrest, calling for help, providing early CPR and early defibrillation – could significantly increase out of hospital cardiac arrest survival rates if only members of the public were more confident about intervening.

Thousands of families experience the impact of cardiac arrest each year. Yet, if those around them knew what to do, the chance of survival could increase to up to 70%. As more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the UK, and fewer than one in 10 survive, St John Ambulance, today launches an awareness campaign called C.A.R.E for a Heart -  to get the nation ready to act if faced with a cardiac arrest. 

With 80% of these cardiac arrests happening in the home, it’s more than likely going to be friends or family who needs first aid, so knowing what to do in advance is the easiest and most effective way to save a loved one’s heart.

Yet a survey carried out for St John Ambulance found that 61% of people wouldn’t know what to do if faced with a cardiac arrest; and while 81% know what a defibrillator does, 70% of people would not feel confident using one, and an astonishing 62% wrongly believe it could cause harm to a patient.

Our challenge, therefore, is threefold. First, we need people to feel ready to intervene in the case of a cardiac arrest. UK rates of bystander intervention are lower than in comparable countries. Second, to understand that all the steps of the chain are important. There is no point in going to get a defibrillator if you haven’t called the emergency services and people aren’t providing CPR. 

Our third challenge arises from our modern reliance on smartphones for information. Implementing the chain of survival is straightforward, but if you need to act then you haven’t got time to be looking things up on your phone. There are a few things – like already knowing where your nearest defibrillator is – that can help you to act quickly and effectively. Our C.A.R.E. campaign is about getting ready before an incident happens, so that you can then carry out the chain of survival.  

C  Closest defibrillator   

     Find your closest defibrillator 

A  Arrest? 

     Be ready to spot the signs of cardiac arrest 

R  Resuscitate 

     Know how to resuscitate using CPR 

E  Early defibrillation   

     Early defibrillation gives the best chance of survival 

We have developed four short, light-hearted films – each less than a minute long – which show people what they need to know. Someone who follows the steps will be able to recognise a cardiac arrest, call for help, give CPR and provide early defibrillation – and these are all the steps of the chain of survival that a bystander would need to give. 

Advances in medicine have consistently demonstrated the benefit of delivering immediate emergency care. From my own experience I know that the swift and effective use of a defibrillator within the chain of survival can and will save lives all across the country. I encourage you to watch the films, follow the advice and, crucially, share the campaign with your friends and family.  Watch and share the films here: www.sja.org.uk/care

If you are in Westminster today drop in for 10 minutes in Committee room 7, anytime between 2.15 – 3.30pm to hear about the campaign and how to get your constituency ready to act if faced with a cardiac arrest.  

On Thursday (7 Dec) the first aid APPG is holding first aid training which will include the following topics: choking – adult/child/infant, severe bleeding, chest pains, primary survey, communication and care, resuscitation – adult/child/infant and unconscious casualty – adult/child/infant.  Don’t miss the opportunity to learn life saving skills.   To take part, please RSVP to  peter.aldous.mp@parliament.uk to reserve your space.