UK's 'stubbornly' low rates of bystander CPR prompt 'Restart a Heart Day'

Hundreds of thousands of children across the United Kingdom are learning CPR this week in an effort to combat the country’s “stubbornly low” rates of survival for public cardiac arrests.

Although an estimated one in five adults in the U.K. come across someone in need of immediate CPR during their lives, rates of bystander CPR are as low as 39 percent in some parts of the country, according to recent research out of Warwick Medical School. The British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the Warwick study, reports less than one in 10 individuals who suffer from an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive the attack, and each minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a patient’s chance of survival by 10 percent.

“CPR is a vital step in the chain of survival after a cardiac arrest,” Gavin Perkins, a professor of critical care medicine and the leader of the study, said in a news release from the University of Warwick. “The chance of surviving is almost zero if people collapse and receive no bystander CPR until the emergency services arrive.”

University of Warwick researchers surveyed 2,000 people across the U.K. to determine the likelihood of someone witnessing a life-threatening cardiac arrest in public, according to the release. They found a significant number reported having witnessed a cardiac arrest firsthand, and those who were trained in CPR were three times more likely to perform the act, while untrained witnesses were hesitant to help the patient.

The U.K.’s rate of bystander CPR is low compared to other countries—the same figure is 66 percent in the Netherlands, 69 percent in parts of Australia and 73 percent in Norway.

A BHF survey revealed that 89 percent of all respondents agreed CPR should be taught in all schools, leading to a countrywide effort to educate more than 150,000 children in CPR administration and lifesaving techniques. On and around Oct. 16, which is now known as “Restart a Heart Day,” events across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will aim to educate the public about bystander CPR and its immense benefits.

“The young people who receive CPR training today will become the lifesavers of tomorrow,” Federico Moscogiuri, CEO of the U.K. Resuscitation Council, said in the release. “The CPR these young people learn today will be a skill they carry with them throughout their lives.”

According to the release, if CPR is taught more widely, the U.K. could see thousands of lives saved per year. The BHF, Resuscitation Council, St. John Ambulance, British Red Cross, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and all UK NHS ambulance services are reportedly working together to address the issue.

“Our research shows just how important it is for everyone to learn CPR,” Gavin said. “It is staggering to think that one in five of us will at some point have the opportunity to save a life by giving CPR.”