Page last updated at 00:59 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 01:59 UK

First aid 'could save thousands' - St John Ambulance

Beth Chesney-Evans believes first aid should become a compulsory subject at school

A wider knowledge of simple first aid techniques could save thousands of lives each year, the St John Ambulance charity has said.

It is focusing a new campaign on five health emergencies which account for 150,000 deaths each year in England and Wales.

These include heart attacks, choking and severe bleeding.

The charity is offering a free pocket guide which it feels will boost the survival chances of many more patients.

It believes that if confident first aiders were present on more occasions, many lives would be saved.

Around 2,500 people die each year from a blocked airway, but if someone had known the recovery position, lives could have been saved
Sue Killen, St John Ambulance

This view is backed by the World Health Organisation, which also says "bystander first aid" can make a difference and should be encouraged.

The charity's own poll suggests that most people would still not feel confident attempting first aid techniques, while a quarter would do nothing and wait for other people or paramedics to arrive.

Its chief executive Sue Killen said: "We believe that anyone who needs first aid should receive it.

"Our latest research shows that's just not happening. We can't rely on other people to have the skills - everyone should take the responsibility to learn first aid themselves.

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

Crash tragedy

First aid dummy
First aid knowledge is much higher in other European countries

Beth Chesney-Evans' son died in 2008 following a motorcycle accident near his Oxfordshire home.

She said she didn't know if he could have survived, even with first aid, but that it might have given him a chance.

"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."

Fotini Rozakeas, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "In life threatening situations it's vital that we all know what to do before professional help arrives as it's bystanders, often a relative, who are first on the scene.

"Every year around 140,000 people have a heart attack and around one in three die before reaching hospital.

"Calling 999 promptly and knowing what to do in those crucial minutes can make a big difference to a person's chance of survival."

The booklet is available free of charge from the St John Ambulance website, or by texting LIFE to 85010, contains simple instructions on treating patients with heart symptoms, bleeding, choking, or who are unconscious, either breathing or not breathing.

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