According to a leading charity, up to 150,000 deaths could be prevented each year in the UK if more people knew first aid: this is more than the number of people who die of lung cancer every year, the most common cause of death from cancer, they said.

St John Ambulance, who last year taught first aid to 800,000 people, has launched a hard-hitting campaign to encourage more people to learn life-saving first aid skills.

Using 2008 death registration data from the Office of National Statistics, the charity estimates that thousands of people die every year in situations where first aid could have saved them.

This includes nearly 900 deaths caused by choking, 2,500 caused by a blocked airway, and 29,000 from heart attack.

The charity said in a statement that first aid can make a dramatic difference in such cases, either by direct intervention, such as in cases of choking, or by recognizing early warning signs, such as in heart attacks, and in knowing how to look after a casualty until the medics arrive.

Guy Chesney-Evans died in a motorcycle crash near his home in Didcot, Oxfordshire in August 2008, when he was just 17.

His mother, Beth Chesney-Evans, who is backing the St John Ambulance campaign, said she believes her son would still be alive today if he had been given basic first aid. She told the press that:

“Guy didn’t die because of a terrible head injury or massive internal bleeding. He had no injuries at all but died because his heart apparently stopped and he couldn’t breathe — and those are conditions that first aid is designed to deal with until the ambulance arrives.”

“I’ll never know whether Guy could have survived; but because he didn’t get any first aid, he didn’t have a chance,” she added.

She said she was supporting the campaign because she wants to give others the chance that her son did not have:

“I don’t want him to have died in vain,” she said.

ICM research conducted on behalf of the charity earlier this year shows that:

  • 59 per cent of people would not feel confident enough to try and save a life.
  • 24 per cent would do nothing and wait for the ambulance to arrive, or hope that a passer-by would have first aid skills.

As part of the campagin, St John Ambulance is urging all members of the public to get their free pocket-sized guide about first aid skills that can help in five common life-threatening situations: choking, heart attack, severe bleeding, an unconscious person who is breathing and one who is not breathing.

New advertising depicting five situations where first aid could have been the difference between saving and losing a life accompanies the hard-hitting campaign, as does a renewed plea for the public to become “the difference” and make donations.

Sue Killen, CEO of St John Ambulance, said:

“Around 2,500 people die each year from a blocked airway, but if someone had known the recovery position, lives could have been saved.”

She urged everyone to get their free guide.

St John Ambulance pocket sized first aid guide.

Source: St John Ambulance.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD