The postman came bright and early with a wedge of intriguing mail. A new season H&M catalogue, a Dominos leaflet with coupons, a few too many envelopes that looked liked bills (I obviously pushed these to one side), and finally this one envelope from an unidentifiable source. This mystery letter was, without doubt, the postal highlight; I had no idea who it was from. Life doesn’t get much more exciting than this!!

I opened it with great expectations. Had the National Lottery changed its way of informing massive jackpot wins to via post? Could it be an unexpected cheque? Was my husband surprising me with tickets to a West End show? Erm…. no. No such luck. The letter read:

“Your mandatory training is now due. Please attend such and such, miles away, for a whole day you’ll never get back. Yours, Work”

Cue a mental 'Thumbs Down'

Bore off manual handling & fire safety. Yes, it’s important. Yes, the training can help prevent serious accidents and injuries. But I’ve heard it all before. Loads. And the topics are, well, dull (apologies to all you health & safety heroes out there. I’m sure the Health & Safety Act 1974 is a compelling read)

However, the other course included in my mandatory training day – Basic Life Support – is right up my street. Not only is it a must for my job, but I truly believe it should be taught to everybody. On a yearly basis.

For those of you who are unsure, and I’m hoping that’s not many of you, Basic Life Support (BLS) is referring to the basic first aid procedures that are performed to keep someone alive until the ambulance service arrives. The main procedure is known as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), but BLS also includes guidance on the procedure for when someone is choking. I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty comforted if I knew the majority of the population were aware of how to act in these emergency situations. It’s a sad fact that your survival rate for a cardiac arrest is considerably higher in the United States, simply because they are taught BLS in school. I’m not saying that you can expect a 5 year old American kid to swoop to the rescue and commence effective chest compressions, but it’s likely they would know who to call for help; a good start.

Before you grab your notepad and pen, this post isn’t going to provide you with the full training you need to perform BLS. My pure purpose is to raise awareness and to hopefully encourage people to want to learn it. And from a parenting point of view, I personally think it is one of the most vital skills a mother or father can possess.

It’s fair to say that scenarios requiring BLS are rare occurrences but it does happen and often when you least expect it, so listen up everyone!


How do I know if someone is in cardiac arrest?

According to the UK Resuscitation Council the key features of cardiac arrest are someone who is unconscious, unresponsive and not breathing normally. Noisy, infrequent or gasping breaths is not normal breathing. If you have any doubt whether someone is breathing normally or not, assume they are not: call 999 immediately and start CPR.

What’s the difference between Adult & Paediatric CPR?

An adult will normally become unconscious and unresponsive due to a cardiac issue. A child/infant will often be due to a respiratory issue. It is therefore advised that when concerning a paediatric, a set of 5 rescue breaths are performed before chest compressions as this alone can sometimes be enough to bring back signs of life. Sadly, it’s believed that many children do not receive CPR because people are afraid of causing harm. Always remember that causing unintentional harm is better than increasing the likelihood of death by doing nothing at all. The UK Resuscitation Council state that, if in doubt, it is far better to use the adult CPR sequence for resuscitation of a child than to do nothing. When performing chest compressions, compress the childs chest by 1/3 to 1/2 of its depth. Don’t be afraid to push hard.

 Will I be sued for performing CPR?

The idea of CPR going wrong and the worry of legal consequences can be enough to prevent potential rescuers. It’s important to remember that anyone providing CPR would be doing so in good faith. It would be difficult to be proved legally liable for anything unfortunate happening and, in the UK, no such action has ever been brought against someone who performed CPR.

What do I do if I see someone choking?

Commonly, people who are choking will go silent and hold or point to their throat. If the obstruction is partially blocking the airway, they may be able to speak, cough and breathe. In this instance, you should encourage coughing to clear the obstruction.

In severe obstruction, coughing will be ineffective, breathing will be difficult, noisy or impossible. If the obstruction is not quickly dislodged, the person will lose consciousness. When coughing is ineffective, you will need to assist with procedures that will help remove the obstruction, such as back blows followed by abdominal thrusts.

Where can I receive training?

Heartstart courses are available in the UK. These teach CPR and other emergency life-saving skills in a class lasting approximately two hours, and are free to attend. There are over 3,800 Heartstart schemes across the UK, supported by the BHF.

There are voluntary organisations such as St Johns Ambulance & The British Red Cross. You can also find many online courses for BLS.

The UK Resuscitation Council website is also a fantastic place to gain valuable information. Below are links to their guidelines and information on specific topics incorporated in BLS:

Full guidelines for adult basic life support and automated external defibrillation Click here

Full guidelines for paediatric basic life support Click here

Video summaries for the 2015 guidelines Click here

I’d like to thank you for taking time to read this. It’s not my usual style of post but I’m very passionate about getting BLS training into our communities. As the post title says; I believe it should be a basic life skill for everyone. So please, go and spread the word. Share this post. Refer people to the Resuscitation Council. Educate your children (remember to be age appropriate) as even a 3 year old could learn to recognise an unconscious adult and call 999.

Don’t be afraid to act, you could save a very precious life.


Published by Holly Leppard