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CPR - should training become mandatory in the workplace?

Posted: 31/10/2018

According to new figures released to mark ‘Restart a Heart Day’ earlier this month, nearly a third of UK adults would not perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they saw someone suffer a cardiac arrest. This means a worrying number of lives are at risk every day because not enough people know how to perform the steps involved. 

CPR is a life-saving medical procedure of giving chest compressions and performing rescue breaths. This helps pump blood to the brain and around the body and get oxygen into the lungs. 

The importance of CPR was highlighted only this weekend when football star, Glen Hoddle, reportedly suffered a heart attack whilst working at the BT Sport Studios. A sound engineer began CPR and also used a defibrillator before paramedics arrived. The sound engineer confirmed, however, that he had received first-aid training. This therefore begs the question of whether or not first-aid training should be mandatory in the workplace?

It is of course helpful to have people in the office who have received first-aid training but what if they are sick, on holiday or just not in the office at the time someone suffers a cardiac arrest? Importance is attached to those who work with the general public in places such as hospitals, GP surgeries, dentists and schools but what about banks, law firms, accountants, and insurance firms - should CPR training be offered by all employers of a certain size? 

The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches is joining the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of being able to assist someone who has suffered from cardiac arrest.

Emma Beeson, senior associate in the clinical negligence team, explains: “Some may argue that CPR training should not be mandatory as it is not put into use often enough to justify the costs and time of arranging for everyone to receive it but is this true? Figures published by the British Heart Foundation suggest that more than 30,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest outside hospital each year. This could happen in a public place, out on the street or in the workplace.

"People should not be scared to start CPR for fear that they do not know what they are doing. CPR can literally mean the difference between life and death. You cannot kill someone as a result of incorrectly administering CPR. If a person is at the point of needing CPR, technically they are already dead. CPR and defibrillation is the most effective treatment for a cardiac arrest; it is better to try CPR than do nothing at all.

"Understandably, without any training or knowledge of where to start, people may still shy away from performing it. However, even if not trained in CPR, it is essential that it is attempted. The first three minutes after a cardiac are the most important. Ambulance dispatches will always provide instructions on how to carry out chest compressions over the phone. This is why the first thing you should do is phone 999 and then begin CPR immediately.

"After a cardiac arrest, every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces someone’s chance of survival by 10%. So, even if you have not been trained in CPR with rescue breaths, hands-only CPR can still buy time by maintaining blood flow to vital organs.” 

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, which starves the brain of oxygen causing a person to fall unconscious and stop breathing. Usually there are no symptoms before a cardiac arrest, and without immediate treatment, it will be fatal. 

Many cardiac arrests happen because a heart attack has caused the heart to develop an abnormal heart rhythm. It should be stressed that a cardiac arrest is not the same thing as a heart attack. They are different and require different treatments. A heart attack happens when one of the coronary arteries becomes blocked. The heart muscle is robbed of its vital blood supply and, if left untreated, will begin to die because it is not getting enough oxygen. 

So what should you do?

If you witness a cardiac arrest, you must call for an ambulance and then start CPR straightaway. Someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest will still have three or four minutes’ worth of oxygenated blood in their body and it is extremely important to pump this blood around by means of chest compressions. 

After this period of time, the oxygenated blood will deplete and breathing becomes crucial to aiding the casualty’s survival. Two rescue breaths should be given after every 30 compressions.

It is recognised that some people may be unable or unwilling to provide rescue breaths but the key is to keep delivering chest compressions.

Fewer than one in ten people who have an out of hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) in the UK currently survive so it is staggering that there are no statutory legal provisions here relating to the practice of resuscitation or defibrillation. Currently, CPR courses are offered by the voluntary aid societies, rescue organisations, some ambulance trusts, and resuscitation community defibrillation officers. Some countries around the world are starting to legislate for CPR to be part of the school curriculum with the intention of improving cardiac arrest survival rates. After Denmark legislated for all secondary school pupils to learn CPR, its OHCA survival rates tripled

As part of a push to save lives, in July this year, after tireless campaigning by the ‘Every Child a Lifesaver’ coalition (with the NHS, St John Ambulance and British Red Cross), the Government announced that CPR and first aid will be added to the curriculum as part of wider health education classes in England. The public consultation is open until 7 November 2018 for members of the public to comment on these plans before they are finalised.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP