Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Thursday, 22 November 2012

Children should know how to save a life, say MPs

MPs have told the government it should be compulsory for children to be taught life-saving skills in schools, during a backbench business debate on the subject in the Commons.

The debate was introduced by Conservative MP Anne-Marie Morris on 22 November 2012.

Ms Morris said there was "clearly public support" for the move, pointing to a British Heart Foundation survey from 2011 in 86% of teachers and 78% of children said they wanted it to be part of the curriculum.

"It is the right thing to do for society and for the economy," she told the Commons.

The British Heart Foundation and the Resuscitation Council UK say the skills are particularly important in cases of cardiac arrest, where the heart stops pumping blood and it only takes a few minutes for irreversible brain damage to occur.

Several peers drew attention to the case of premiership footballer Fabrice Muamba who collapsed during a match after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Ms Morris said he might not have survived had it not been for the emergency life-saving skills he received on the pitch.

Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East, said it was vital to show "what children are capable of" and not to "underestimate" the life-saving skills they can learn.

Conservative MP for North Swindon Justin Tomlinson told MPs that cardiac arrest survival rates were "disgracefully low" in the UK, between 2% and 12%.

He recalled how, as a 12-year-old, his father collapsed in front of him.

My attempts to help him were "at best muddled", he told the Commons, as passers-by stepped in to help, but his father passed away.

"We'll never know if we'd all been equipped with more skills what difference that would make," he said.

Labour supported the motion. Shadow education secretary Kevin Brennan said that unless the government spelt out how it would be taught "it simply will not work".

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said the ability to save a life was one of the most important skills a young person could learn.

However, she said it was best to let teachers decide whether to teach first aid.

The backbench motion was passed unopposed.

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