The young life-savers: how children aged as young as five are taught CPR

Wee people, but big heroes. Scottish children as young as five are learning CPR skills that can save lives.

Schools across Scotland are giving training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to children from the early years of primary. Experts say it is essential that literally everybody can react quickly when a cardiac arrest happens.

The Scottish Government strategy is to train 500,000 people in CPR skills and save an additional 1,000 lives by 2020. Save a Life for Scotland is the umbrella organisation behind the strategy.

Lisa MacInnes, the national programme manager for Save a Life for Scotland, said: “The simple message of the campaign is that everybody in Scotland has got the power to save lives in their own hands. You look at your hands and those hands can potentially save someone’s life. We have got lots of lives in Scotland to save.

“I am determined that we are going to get all of Scotland to know that CPR is the right thing to do and be prepared to step up and say ‘I would do it’ if the worst came to worst and somebody collapsed. Only together can we move that message forward.”

She added: “We are trying to find the best way to support schools and encouraging them to be trained in CPR skills. A lot of people ask me how to teach Primary 1 kids in CPR if they are not strong enough? Well, they do it remarkably well, they know exactly where to put their hands or phone 999 to get help.

“If you look at the schools there are kids that come from every area and every part of Scotland. We want to reach everybody regardless of their socio-economic status and provide people with skills and through doing it in schools it helps and develops the level of community.”

CPR is both the resuscitation and the life-saving sequence that everyone should learn: Call 999 for the emergency services, Push hard and fast on the centre of the chest 30 times, and give two Rescue breaths.

For example, a P1 class at Westquarter Primary School in Falkirk has made a YouTube video showing the CPR instructions to follow when a cardiac arrest occurs: it’s already been watched almost 1000 times.

Meanwhile, over 500 people were trained in a single day at the Community School of Auchterarder.

Students from P7 to S6, staff and members of the community were taught the basics as part of the Save a Life for Scotland campaign. The British Heart Foundation, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Trossachs Search and Rescue, Police Scotland and NHS Tayside helped provide the CPR training.

The British Heart Foundation (Scotland) says it now has CPR training schemes in 57% of Scottish secondary schools.

James Cant, foundation director, explained the importance of teaching CPR to children.

“They can save a life. By knowing what to do, they can perform CPR or call emergency services and ask for help.  It is an absolutely critical skill and we think all young Scots should know it when they leave school and are able to encourage their parents or a member of their family to take up those skills.

“We want a consistent level of participation across schools and to do something that is used on a regular basis, something that is crucial for a wider education.”

About 80% of cardiac arrests take place in a domestic situation. The British Heart Foundation has created the Nation of Lifesavers to teach people when a cardiac arrest has occurred and improve survival rates.

Every year over 3,500 people around Scotland are treated by the ambulance service after having a cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, only 1 in 20 people survive.

Gregor Newton was one of them. In April 2014, aged 43, he suffered a cardiac arrest in East Lothian and thanks to the prompt response of his wife Judy, who gave CPR while an ambulance was called, together with the Dunbar Community First Responders and the Scottish Ambulance Service, he survived.

Gregor and his wife shared their story at the recent Scottish Cardiac Arrest Symposium 2016 to show the successful operation of the chain of survival. The annual event was hosted by the Resuscitation Research Group at the University of Edinburgh.

To find out more about the Save a Life for Scotland campaign, go here: savealife.scot

For more information about the British Heart Foundation, visit: bhf.org.uk

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