Making first aid an obligatory skill

How many more tragic events do we need to read about before first aid becomes an obligatory skill?

Jim Dorman, Operations and Policy Director, St Andrew’s First Aid
July 2019

Jim Dorman, Operations and Policy Director, St Andrew’s First Aid

It was with great sense of sadness that this week I read another widely reported story of a 10-month old baby boy who died following a choking incident at his nursery.

It was a death that could well have been prevented, and the frustrating thing is that it doesn’t take much to make sure that every child in Scotland has the highest chance of surviving incidents such as this, if more people were first aid trained.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that in my opinion, first aid training should be an obligatory qualification. Imagine the difference that could be made to people’s lives, knowing that at any given time, someone with the right skills and knowledge would be on hand to help, should it ever be needed.

Every day, around 40 children under the age of five are rushed to hospital after choking on something, usually food.

Often – and in this particular case – it can be completely silent with no sound to warn you something is wrong.

Deaths relating to child choking are mainly preventable and it takes just a few hours of time to teach someone how to confidently provide the right first aid support to a choking child.

Childcare First Aid in Scotland

According to the latest available information from the Care Inspectorate Annual Report 2018, a quarter (25 per cent) of all nurseries and childcare providers in Scotland have no first aid trained employees to deal with child related first aid incidents. Furthermore, 10 per cent of nurseries and childcare providers have no first aid training at all.

Of those establishments where there are staff with some level of first aid training, a massive 78 per cent – that’s more than three quarters – are not trained to workplace first aid HSE standards. And yet, for so many working individuals, their children are being placed in the care of others, often believing them to be in the safest hands.

Current legislation doesn’t go far enough. It feels like the bare minimum and whilst some establishments go out of their way to make sure that their staff are equipped with first aid skills, there are clear gaps in too many others which are more likely to be closed if legislation was changed and it became compulsory.

What can we do?

It’s led me to ask what more an organisation like ours can do to encourage people to undergo first aid training? It shouldn’t take a heart-breaking incident to change minds because for one family, it’s all too late. How long will it be before we are made aware of another similar tragedy?

Our dedicated work in communities, which include free training sessions, is focused on providing access to first aid and encouraging people to consider first aid training in the same way as they might consider learning a new hobby, sport or language. It takes less time than you think but the value in being skilled in the art of saving a life is enormous.

Imagine the difference that would have been made to this baby boy’s family if the outcome had been more positive.

Whether it’s in the home or in an external environment, the only way we can really ensure our children are as safe as they can be, is to take the matter into our own hands.

If we can successfully teach and empower five-year olds with the ability to help save a life, think of what you could achieve as an adult.

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