Every year, 140,000 people die in situations where first aid could have saved their lives – more than the 138,000 who die from cancer.
This statistic, revealed in research carried out by St John Ambulance, shocked me.
But I should not be surprised, as I am one of the more than 80 per cent of people in the south east who do not know even basic first aid skills.
To highlight people’s ignorance about first aid, St John Ambulance has launched a campaign which encourages more people to learn the basics. And, on Thursday, they invited me to sit in on a course at the organisation’s headquaters in Farncombe Road, Worthing.
Course leader Natalie Jenkins told me: “First aid could be the difference between life and death. You could save somebody’s life, so it’s really important.
“Often, it’s something people don’t think about, but when they come along and learn the skills they are pleased to have them, and realise that a lot of it uses common sense.”
The day I was there, the course was on work-place first aid, but St John Ambulance also offers courses for individuals, such as one called essential first aid. It also teaches paediatric, schools, sports and a wide range of other courses.
I learned how to do a primary survey of somebody who had collapsed, and practised checking they were breathing and putting them in the recovery position. I also pretended to be the casualty, and it made me appreciate how vulnerable you are, and just how vital it is that people know how to help you.
Other course topics include learning about airway and breathing disorders, choking, low blood sugar, bone, muscle and joint injuries, CPR, burns and scalds and severe bleeding.
Philippa Lane works at Seaside Primary School in Lancing, and was pleased to be refreshing her skills. “Thankfully, we don’t get to put the big skills into practice, but knowing what to do does make me feel more confident,” she said.
For more information, visit www.sja.org.uk