NFWI Resolutions Shortlist 2016 – Resolution Number 5: First aid to save lives

In the fifth of the NFWI resolutions to be presented to Sotonettes members for ballot, the promotion of first aid training in the local community is discussed.


Sotonettes members are entitled to vote on this issue; for more information, click here, or download a handy booklet here. Or visit our Facebook page!

“The NFWI considers that suffering could be minimised and lives could be saved if more members of the general population were trained in first aid. We propose that HM government should promote first aid training in schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace. Furthermore, that all WIs should support and encourage first aid training and volunteer first aiders in their communities so that we become a safer and better informed country ready to help save lives.”

Proposer’s position

The proposer’s intention is to increase the number of people with emergency life support skills, and to increase the number of people with the confidence to use those skills to respond to an emergency situation. Acknowledging that a number of national organisations offer training and support in first aid, the proposer would like to see the promotion of first aid training and time allocated for it within schools, colleges, universities and workplaces. The aim would be to minimise the ill effects of a sudden illness and save lives.

Outline of the issue

There are tens of thousands of medical emergencies every year in the UK, resulting in deaths, injuries and disabilities. According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) approximately 30,000 people each year in the UK have an out of hospital cardiac arrest in which the emergency services attempt resuscitation. Of this number, only 1 in 10 people recover to leave hospital. This survival rate lags considerably behind other developed countries such as Norway, with a survival rate of 25%. Evidence shows that in some cases CPR can double the chances of survival and that if an emergency ambulance is called and immediate bystander CPR is applied, followed by early defibrillation and effective post-resuscitation care, survival rates following cardiac arrest can exceed 50%. Whilst cardiac arrest is not the only emergency that can be tackled by first aid training, these statistics show that, even in this one area, emergency first aid can have a great effect.

Several surveys in the UK have shown that around three quarters of people do not know how to perform CPR.[1] Whilst 47% of people say that they have received formal training, only 29% report that they are confident at performing it on close family members and only 22% are confident to perform it on a total stranger.[2] Several European countries teach CPR in their schools, such as Denmark and Norway. In countries that do teach CPR in schools, the rate of survival for out of hospital cardiac arrest is almost double that of the UK.[3] Looking at first aid more widely, the British Red Cross found only 7% of people felt confident that they could carry out emergency first aid. This figure is 80% in Germany and Scandinavian countries where Emergency Life Skills are taught in schools.[4]

At present, there is no requirement for schools in England to train children in ELS, or basic first aid. However, the BHF estimates that around one in seven children in secondary school in England do receive ELS training. First aid training, which covers many of the parts of ELS, has been included at some English secondary schools as part of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE). PSHE does not have any statutory basis and is not part of the National Curriculum – schools have therefore not been required to teach it. In Wales, ELS is part of a framework within Personal and Social Education (PSE). PSE forms part of the basic curriculum which must by law be taught alongside the national curriculum for all registered pupils aged 5 to 16 at maintained schools, however the framework that includes ELS is not statutory.[5] During the latest curriculum review (which was implemented in 2014), the Education Secretary did not accept calls from expert groups for ELS to become a mandatory part of secondary education.

On 16 September 2015, Teresa Pearce MP, along with St John Ambulance, the BHF and the British Red Cross, launched the Every Child a Life Saver campaign.[6] This campaign calls on the Government to make first aid training compulsory in all state-funded secondary schools. Alongside this campaign Pearce tabled the Emergency First Aid Education Bill in Parliament, which would require secondary schools to give young people the skills and confidence to deal with a range of medical emergencies including cardiac arrests, heart attacks, choking, bleeding, asthma attacks, and seizures.[7]

This bill is due to receive its second reading on 20 November 2015[8], where it will need the support of 100 MPs to force a vote, and then a majority of MPs in the house in order to take it to committee stage. As this is a private members bill, as opposed to a government bill, it is possible that it will not be scheduled enough time in Parliament for it to be passed into law and will need the government to allocate it time for debate. The Every Child a Life Saver campaign is raising awareness of this bill and encouraging people to take action and show MPs that this bill has widespread support.

Across the UK, the government have encouraged the development of Community First Responder (CFR) schemes. CFRs are volunteers who can respond to emergency calls within their local community, which is helpful in areas where the emergency services can’t get to the emergency in the target time. In April 2007 the Healthcare Commission in England found that there were 10,158 CFRs in England, however, these volunteers responded to just 1.8% of all emergency calls.[9]

Arguments for the resolution

  • Increasing the first aid skills of the population can double cardiac arrest survival rates and help save many lives.
  • The campaign to get first aid skills taught in schools is backed by the Red Cross, the British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance. These organisations would be excellent for partnerships.
  • Members can get involved on a very local level through training to be a community first responder and promoting first aid training to local schools and workplaces.

Arguments against the resolution

  • The government currently encourages schools to teach PSHE and first aid, but it is not mandatory. This resolution doesn’t call for a mandatory approach, so can the government do any more?
  • Schools, colleges, Universities and workplaces are all under pressure. Would it be feasible to ask them to add first aid training to their programmes?
  • Three other large charities currently offer first aid training and encourage people to take it up. Can the WI give them enough extra reach to make a difference?

Groups to contact for further information

British Red Cross

British Red Cross, UK Office, 44 Moorfields, London, EC2Y 9AL

Tel: 0344 871 11 11

Twitter logo v small@BritishRedCross


St John Ambulance

St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell, London EC1M 4DA

Tel: 08700 104950

Twitter logo v small@stjohnambulance


British Heart Foundation

Greater London House, 180 Hampstead Road, London NW1 7AW

Tel: 0300 330 3322

Twitter logo v small@TheBHF


Teresa Pearce MP – Introduced the Emergency First Aid Education Bill and launched the Every Child a Lifesaver campaign

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Tel: Westminster Office – 0207 219 6936

Twitter logo v small@tpearce003



[1] BHF research in 2006 found that nearly three quarters of people were not trained in CPR (CPR training research, British Heart Foundation, Ed Coms, 2006.) A survey undertaken in 2010 by St John Ambulance, St Andrew Ambulance and the British Red Cross found that 77% of people either did not know how to perform CPR, or were unsure – see:


[3] Ibid.






[9] The role and management of community first responders. Findings from a national survey of NHS ambulance services in England, Healthcare Commission, December 2007. Available at: