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Nearly a third of UK adults would not attempt CPR, putting lives at risk

Warwick Medical SchoolNearly a third of UK adults (30%) wouldn’t perform CPR if they saw someone suffer a cardiac arrest, according to worrying new figures released to mark Restart a Heart Day1.

Researchers from the University of Warwick Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Outcome (OHCAO) Registry team worked with YouGov to survey over 4,000 UK adults. Participants were asked questions about their knowledge of CPR, and whether they would feel confident in performing it on someone who had had a cardiac arrest.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF), which commissioned the research, says the figures show that lives are still being put at risk every day because not enough people know how to perform CPR.

Restart a Heart Day, is an annual campaign to raise awareness of the importance of CPR, which will today see over 200,000 people trained in life saving CPR. The campaign is organised jointly by the BHF, the Resuscitation Council (UK), St John Ambulance, the British Red Cross, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and ambulance trusts and fire and rescue services across the country. This year for the first time, the day will be marked globally, as training and awareness events take place for World Restart a Heart Day.

The UK campaign, which is now in its 5th year, was launched after figures revealed that less than 1 in 10 people in Britain survive an out of hospital cardiac arrest, due to low bystander CPR rates. In countries where CPR is taught in schools, as many as 1 in 4 survive2. The Westminster Government has recently announced plans to add CPR, defibrillator awareness and other lifesaving first aid skills to the national curriculum in secondary schools in England, as part of a push to save lives and improve cardiac arrest survival rates3.

Although 96% of those asked said they were likely to call an ambulance if they saw someone had collapsed and had stopped breathing, the time it takes for the emergency services to arrive can mean the difference between life and death. Brain tissue starts to die within 3 minutes after the heart stops, due to a lack of oxygen4. Early CPR can more than double a person’s chances of survival5, and can buy the time needed before paramedics arrive and provide care.

Research recently presented at the European Resuscitation Council (ERC) Conference suggests that campaigns like Restart a Heart Day are having an impact, with the data showing rates of bystander CPR increased by over 10% between 2013 and 20176. Despite these positive steps forward, today’s survey still shows a worrying gap in knowledge, which results in thousands of lives being put at risk.

  • Prof Gavin Perkins, Professor of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Warwick, who led the research, said:

“The Warwick team has for 10 years focused its research on out of hospital cardiac arrest survival rates, and how to improve them. The rates of bystander CPR in the UK have for too long lagged behind other European nations, but with campaigns like Restart a Heart Day helping to raise awareness of the issue, we are now thankfully seeing some improvements.”

  • Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“You may not feel confident performing CPR if you haven’t been trained or you don’t remember your training; but without your early action the chances someone will survive a cardiac arrest are virtually zero. The BHF is striving to improve survival rates by creating a Nation of Lifesavers through our CPR training programmes. By raising awareness on Restart a Heart Day, we hope more people will see that CPR really can be the difference between life and death and that doing something is always better than doing nothing.”

  • Dr Andrew Lockey, Honorary Secretary at the Resuscitation Council (UK) said:

“This year will see another 200,000 potential lifesavers trained across the UK - and evidence is emerging that the annual Restart a Heart initiative is leading to an increase in bystander CPR rates. The Resuscitation Council (UK) are certain we will see more lives saved from initiatives like this one, and all those who have contributed to training others can be justifiably proud of the positive impact that they are making.”

  • St John Ambulance’s Chief Executive, Martin-Houghton Brown, said:

“Survival rates for out of hospital cardiac arrests are far too low but if we equip communities with the skills and resilience to respond in an emergency situation: that can change. Hundreds of our dedicated and highly trained volunteers will be opening our doors across the country as part of Restart a Heart to share their skills and help embed life saving knowledge firmly within their local communities. We believe it is vital that everyone has the confidence and skills to step forward when it matters most and it really doesn’t take long to brush up your CPR skills or even to learn from scratch. Ultimately, it means you could save a life.”

  • Joe Mulligan, Head of First Aid Education at the British Red Cross said:

“When someone is unresponsive and not breathing it’s a matter of life and death. Without immediate intervention with CPR and a defibrillator the chances are that person will not survive.

“While it’s normal to feel worried about performing CPR, it’s important to remember that doing something to help is always better than doing nothing.

“First aid will soon be part of the National Curriculum in England, meaning secondary school children will learn this important life lesson which could go a long way to improving public confidence. In the meantime we would urge everyone to use our free online resources to learn this lifesaving skill.”

  • Jason Carlyon, Clinical Development Manager with Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said:

“These statistics reinforce the need for community CPR initiatives like Restart a Heart Day and by going into schools to teach CPR we can give pupils the skills and confidence to save a life from an early age. We are proud that the mass CPR training event – pioneered in Yorkshire to mark Restart a Heart Day - has caught the attention of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation which is now using the event to encourage mass CPR training on a global scale!”

  • Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service Chief Fire Officer, Jim Wallace said:

“Restart a Heart Day is a fantastic initiative and it’s great to see our crews heading into schools teaching this life-saving skill across Greater Manchester. If there is one thing children should learn at school – it’s how to respond in an emergency situation and have the confidence and ability to perform CPR.

“You never know when you are going to need to perform this life-saving skill, but it really can be the difference between life and death. I would encourage everyone to undertake CPR training, whether it is in school or the workplace, as the more people are trained and feel confident to step in to help someone, the better.”

  • Dr Matt Kearney, National Clinical Director for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at NHS England, said:

“When someone suffers a cardiac arrest their chances of survival increase dramatically if CPR is started immediately. Raising awareness and providing more people with the confidence and training they need on Restart a Heart Day is key and will save more lives.”

  • Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

"Knowing how to save someone's life is one of the most powerful skills you can learn. That's why we plan to teach first aid ‎as part of health education, which we intend to make compulsory in all state funded schools from 2020.

“I look forward to working with experts, including ‎the British Heart Foundation, as we compile teacher materials for health education‎.

“This change will mean pupils learn how to be safe and healthy. It's never too late to‎ learn how to be a lifesaver and I'd encourage people of all ages to learn first aid."

The BHF’s Call Push Rescue CPR training kits are free to eligible UK secondary schools and are also available to order by community groups and workplaces. For more information about CPR and Restart a Heart Day visit: 

People of all ages can join in online by playing free game-in-a-films Lifesaver and Lifesaver VR to learn and practise their CPR skills and gain familiarity with defibrillator use. Learn more at

Help young people develop the skills and confidence to help in a first aid situation with First aid learning for young people from the British Red Cross. It covers 16 first aid skills, brought to life by realistic scenarios, videos, case studies, images, online quizzes and optional role-plays.

16 October 2018


[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated are from: YouGov Survey - Figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4288 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 21st August 2018​. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

[2] BHF estimate comparing survival rates seen in the UK with those reported in Stavanger, Norway (Linder TW et al. Good outcome in every fourth resuscitation attempt is achievable. Resuscitation 2011.)

[3]The Government announced plans in July 2018 to add CPR and first aid to the curriculum as part of wider Health Education classes. The move could transform survival rates from out of hospital cardiac arrests, potentially saving thousands of lives. A public consultation on the updated guidelines has been launched, which will allow members of the public to comment on the plans before they are finalised.

[4] Perkins et al. (2016) Epidemiology Report – Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest Outcomes, Report for the period January - December 2016, for the English Ambulance Services, pp. 25. Available at:

[5] K.G. Monsieurs et al. (2015) European Resuscitation Council Guidelines for Resuscitation 2015, pp. 6. Available at:

[6] Brown et al. (2018) Bystander Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation: Impacts of Training Initiatives. Available at:


Information about cardiac arrests and CPR

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation – it is the technique of pushing down on the centre of a person’s chest to help pump blood to their brain and around their body, and performing rescue breaths to get oxygen into their lungs. It is necessary when someone’s heart has stopped beating and they have stopped breathing or breathing normally. This is a cardiac arrest. It is very rare for a person’s heart to start beating again with CPR alone – so it is part of the ‘chain of survival’, which includes:

1: Early recognition and call for help

2: Early bystander CPR

3: Early defibrillation

4: Early advanced life support and standardised post-resuscitation care


About the British Heart Foundation

Heart and circulatory diseases kill 1 in 4 people in the UK. They cause heartbreak on every street. But if research can invent machines to restart hearts, fix arteries in newborn babies, build tiny devices to correct heartbeats, and give someone a heart they weren’t born with - imagine what’s next.

We fund research into all heart and circulatory diseases and their risk factors. Heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, vascular dementia, diabetes and many more. All connected, all under our microscope. Our research is the promise of future prevention, cures and treatments.

You and the British Heart Foundation. Together, we will beat heartbreak forever.


The Resuscitation Council (UK)

The Resuscitation Council (UK) is a UK-wide charity whose purpose is to Save Lives.

We are the expert organisation that is dedicated to saving lives through effective, appropriate resuscitation. We are the experts in resuscitation. We enable people to save lives through resuscitation.

We operate across all age groups, from newborns to older adults, across all health and care settings and with all stakeholders in emergency care and resuscitation, including health professionals, policymakers, patient and public partners and charity and industry partners.

For more information about the Resuscitation Council (UK) and what we do, please visit


The OHCAO Registry – University of Warwick

The OHCAO Registry is hosted by the University of Warwick and funded by the Resuscitation Council (UK) and British Heart Foundation.

The OHCAO registry brings together information about people throughout the UK who sustain an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest with the overall aim of helping to improve survival.

Further information is available at


St John Ambulance

St John Ambulance is the charity that steps forward in the moments that matter to save lives and support communities. Its highly trained volunteers keep people safe at events nationwide, springing into action to help with medical incidents and emergencies. The organisation also helps the NHS by responding to some 999 calls, as well as transporting patients safely. And every year around 500,000 people, including children and young people, learn how to save a life through its first aid training. St John Ambulance has saved lives and relieved suffering for over 140 years, and – with the support of the public – will do so for decades to come.


Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust covers almost 6,000 square miles and provides 24-hour emergency and healthcare services to a population of more than five million people. The Trust has provided CPR training to more than 76,000 secondary school pupils across Yorkshire on Restart a Heart Day since 2014. The organisation’s award-winning concept was subsequently adopted by all ambulance services in the UK before going global.


Tom Frew, Senior Press and Media Relations Manager – University of Warwick:

E: a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk
M: +44(0)778543315