England’s top doctor is sending out an army of volunteers to teach ‘Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation’ (CPR) and how to use defibrillators. This initiative comes after international footballer Christian Eriksen was saved by quick thinking medics during the Euro 2020 football match. At 5.43pm, 12th June, Eriksen had a heart attack after receiving a throw-in, and collapsed to the ground. Thankfully the defibrillator was produced quickly, and together with the heart massage, it revived Eriksen.
Speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference on the day Denmark returned to action in Euro 2020, England’s National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, is expected to say that ‘it is clear the footballer’s life was saved by urgent medical attention on the pitch – just like Fabrice Muamba nine years earlier’.
With only one in three people in England giving CPR when they witness someone going into cardiac arrest, Professor Powis says thousands more lives could be saved if more people knew what to do. He is announcing the launch of a new partnership with St John Ambulance to deliver an NHS programme encouraging everyone to learn CPR and how to use defibrillators. The health and first aid charity recently trained 27,000 vaccination volunteers in these lifesaving skills and will seek to train an additional 60,000 people as part of this new programme.
Professor Powis said: “During the pandemic, tens of thousands of people volunteered to support the hugely successful NHS vaccination programme and many more took up roles delivering medicines or checking on vulnerable people shielding at home. Since Eriksen’s collapse at the weekend, we have also seen kind hearted Brits sharing information online on how to do CPR and save a life. Today, I’m calling on them to go one step further and train to teach CPR as we know this will mean more lives like Christian Eriksen’s will be saved.”
Building on the work being done by charities and community organisations, St John Ambulance and NHS ambulance trusts will develop a national network of defibrillators and Community Advocates to champion the importance of first aid, which will help save up to 4,000 lives each year by 2028. This will be supported by an education programme, including for young people of school age, about how to recognise and respond to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Professor Powis said: “If more people had the confidence and skills to call 999 quickly, deliver effective CPR until the ambulance crew arrive, and use a public access defibrillator, the number of lives saved would double. We saw a massive rush in willing volunteers to help lifesaving activity during the pandemic and we hope that even more people will be inspired to join our ‘Eriksen’s Army’, learn CPR, and become lifesavers.”
The NHS Long Term Plan aims to increase the out of hospital cardiac arrest survival rate in England from 7% to 25% to bridge the gap between countries like Norway where, 73% of bystanders are willing to try CPR when they witness someone collapsing and going into cardiac arrest outside of hospital. At least 30 volunteers from each of England’s 10 ambulance trusts will be supported to get out into the community and teach lifesaving skills.
Managing Director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) Martin Flaherty OBE, QAM said: “When somebody goes into sudden cardiac arrest their chance of survival can be significantly improved by those who are around them taking immediate action to try to save their life. This may be a family member or a stranger, but either way, if that person starts to administer chest compressions, known as CPR, then the patient has a much better chance of survival. The ambulance service staff will often stay on the phone with you after you have called 999 to help guide you through how to do CPR, which is obviously going to be a stressful time until the ambulance crews arrive. However, it is always best to think ahead and learn the CPR technique or refresh your learning if you undertook a course some time ago, as it may result in you helping to save somebody’s life.”
A cardiac arrest is when your heart stops beating and you are clinically dead. Doing CPR until a defibrillator arrives can save a life. St John Ambulance head of community response, Adam Williams, said: “We’re proud to lead this important initiative in partnership with the NHS. It’s a major step towards coordinating the provision of CPR and defibrillator training nationwide and supporting all communities to improve the response to cardiac emergencies. We’re looking forward to working with training providers, charities, businesses, and all people – young and old – to break down the barriers to learning these lifesaving skills, giving people the confidence to take action when it’s needed.
“We know from people’s response to our new ‘Ask Me’ campaign, that people are hungry for first aid training. Following Eriksen’s collapse on Saturday night we’ve seen a 1000% increase in calls asking for CPR training. In addition, searches for CPR advice are up 565% and defibrillator guides up 1,900%.”
Following this increased demand, and as this new project gets underway, St John Ambulance is offering free CPR and defibrillator courses online. Accelerating prevention of life-threatening illness such as heart attack and stroke is central to the NHS Long Term Plan and the blueprint for the health service outlines an ambition to tackle cardiovascular disease, affecting six million people and accounting for a quarter of deaths in England and costing the NHS £7 billion a year.
This volunteer initiative comes after more than 400,000 people joined the NHS Volunteer Responders Programme, set up last year to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Volunteers from the programme have carried out almost two million tasks for those who needed to stay at home during the pandemic, ranging from phone calls to the isolated, to delivering medicines and medical devices, while thousands have given up their time to steward vaccination sites as part of the biggest jabs drive in NHS history.