Life-saving skills should be a compulsory element in our schools and I welcome the aims of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), British Red Cross and St John Ambulance’s ‘Every Child a Lifesaver’ campaign. The BHF has emphasised that 80 per cent of the 30,000 annual out of hospital cardiac arrests happen in the home, so it is essential that more children leave school knowing how to save a life.
It is deeply concerning, therefore, that the Red Cross estimate that only 20 per cent of our secondary school students currently learn first aid skills in the classroom and that less than 13 per cent of pupils gain some form of CPR training at schools.
As you know, there is currently no statutory requirement for schools to teach first aid, although the guidance for both Citizenship lessons (for children aged 7-11) and Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) education (for all secondary school pupils) encourage the teaching of health and safety and basic emergency first aid procedures.
I believe this urgently needs to be addressed so that all children are taught life-saving skills. There are a number ways this could be achieved and this should be discussed closely with schools. For example, life-saving skills could be taught as a compulsory part of the PE or PSHE curriculum or by schools working with organisations such as the Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance or the Royal Life Saving Society.
I also believe we need to consider wider action to improve awareness of emergency life-saving skills and to reduce sudden cardiac deaths, such as by potentially introducing a national screening programme for at-risk young people such as those playing a lot of sport and to ensure defibrillators are located in major public places such as shopping centres, airports and sports stadia.
A Private Members Bill – the Compulsory Emergency First Aid Education Bill – has recently been introduced by my colleague Teresa Pearce and is due to be debated in the House of Commons on November 20 2015. I know this Bill is supported by the BHF and the ‘Every Child a Lifesaver’ campaign and I hope it provides an opportunity for the government to look again at what more can be done to ensure all children learn life-saving skills at school.
I will be in Parliament on November 20 for the Second Reading of the Bill.