Letter: Heart of the matter

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The Independent Online
Sir: I would like to offer St John Ambulance's endorsement of your article, 'First aid crucial in surviving heart attack' (20 May) and to pose a vital question it raises. If it is true that heart attack victims are twice as likely to survive if an amateur performs resuscitation, why is not every citizen automatically taught first aid on the national curriculum - as in Cyprus for example - and why is first aid not part of the driving test, as in Germany?

Two per cent of heart attack victims are successfully resuscitated by first aid-trained 'amateurs' in the UK, as against more than 40 per cent in Sweden, where first aid education is a higher priority.

Two months ago the Independent helped St John launch a Breath of Life campaign, when our members offered free two-hour courses in resuscitation throughout the country. We were swamped by the response: almost 200,000 people, aged from six upwards, signed up for a course, including a lady whose husband had died of heart attack while she looked on helplessly.

Our message that one person dies of a heart attack every two-and-a-half-minutes in the UK and you have just three minutes in which to resuscitate a casualty who has stopped breathing, struck a chord and a hidden fear that so many have but so few do anything about. Is it fear of confronting the issue or is it lack of public education on the subject?

St John Ambulance would like to see one member of every household first aid trained, hence our campaign; but as a voluntary, charitable organisation, this can be only a long-term vision. Should we not be looking for swifter action?

Yours faithfully,

DAVID PARRY-EVANS

Chief Commander

St John Ambulance

London, SW1

20 May

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