Charities Fear Lives May Be Lost If First-Aid Teaching Is Cut

Lives could be lost if first-aid teaching is reduced in schools, health charities warned last night. Proposed changes to the personal and social education courses in schools include removing first aid at key stage four, and downgrading it to a skill that could, rather than should, be learned at key stage three.

Consultation on the proposed changes by the Welsh Assembly ends today, but St John Cymru Wales said it had not been told about the proposals in time to respond. The charity, along with the British Heart Foundation and the Red Cross, urged the Assembly Government to increase rather than decrease first-aid teaching in schools.

The Government responded by saying the proposals did not amount to reducing first-aid teaching, but the charities disagreed. St John Cymru Wales said lives had been saved as a result of its campaign to have first aid included in the national curriculum under the Personal and Social Education framework in 2000.

Keith Dunn, chief executive of St John Cymru Wales, said, “First aid has the potential to have such an impact on people’s lives. We believe that first aid is as essential as learning to ride a bike or learning to swim. Knowing what to do in the first few minutes of an accident can save a life. St John Wales fundamentally believes that all children should leave school with these life skills.”

He said lives saved as a result of the charity’s campaign to get first aid taught in schools included the case of Young Lifesaver of the Year, Maxine Farnden, who saved the life of her diabetic mother.

Delyth Lloyd from the BHF in Wales echoed his views. “The more people in a community who are trained in emergency life-saving skills, the more equipped that community is to respond to a heart attack, a cardiac arrest or other emergency situations,” she said.

The Red Cross in Wales has written to the Welsh Assembly Government asking for the current level of first-aid teaching to be maintained.

Latest figures showed that of the 5.5 million people who attend A&E departments in the UK every year, three million could benefit from first aid.

A WAG spokesperson said responses would still be considered early next week if charities had not had time to consider them. He said, “There are no plans to downgrade first aid as it is an important skill.”