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Life-saving Skills in Schools

Volume 553: debated on Thursday 22 November 2012

Before I call the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) I inform the House that we intend to finish this debate at about a quarter to 3. I am seeking to protect the next debate, so once the hon. Lady has moved the motion I will decide whether to apply a time limit, and if so, I shall inform the House what that limit will be.

I beg to move,

That this House believes every child should leave school knowing how to save a life.

First, a big thank you is due to the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel) and the Backbench Business Committee, because without them this important issue would not have been given air time. This matter has concerned a number of Members for many years, and I pay tribute to those who have fought on this issue, including my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), and the hon. Members for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) and for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell). It is something about which Members across the House feel strongly and passionately.

What do I mean by emergency life-saving skills? For most of us that includes some of the basic things that can be done for an individual before professional trained help arrives. It usually includes putting people into the recovery position and enabling them to lie down and feel safe; helping people who are at risk of choking or have severe bleeding injuries; and, perhaps the most well known, CPR—cardiopulmonary resuscitation—when somebody’s heart has stopped and they are not breathing.

Why has this issue been raised in connection with our schools and schoolchildren? Most of us are passionate about the fact that if anything in life is truly important, it is life itself and how to save it. That being the case, the more widely spread life-saving skills are, the better off we will be as a community and society. If we start with schoolchildren we build a pyramid, and slowly but surely we begin to inculcate those skills into society.

The hon. Lady is introducing this debate very well indeed. When I was at school I did full St John Ambulance training that involved three or four days on a course and was extensive. Training does not have to be like that, however; it can be quick, effective, short and clear instruction that could result in saving many lives. Children are often at home in the kitchen near their parents and would be able to save a life if they had clear instruction.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It takes two hours—that is all—to teach CPR. Indeed, if CPR is applied, a person is three times more likely to survive. It is well worth while. A third of all deaths in the UK result from cardiovascular disease and there are about 124,000 heart attacks each year. Heart attacks are perhaps the most common situation in which people need life-saving skills.

I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate. Does she agree that great work has been done by the charity SADS—Sudden Arhythmic Death Syndrome—UK? In my constituency, Robert and Maggie Underwood have already secured 14 defibrillators for our schools and campaigned tirelessly for that charity.

My hon. Friend gives me added ammunition and I am delighted to hear what has happened in her community. That is absolutely first rate.

Although we talk mainly about heart attacks, there are more cases of cardiac arrest generally but we are not necessarily as aware of them. A person can suffer an arrest if they lose an excessive amount of blood, suffer a lack of oxygen, become very hot or very cold, or have a blood clot on the lung. It could happen to anybody. It does not have to be someone who suffers from heart disease or is elderly; it could happen to any of us here.

As was alluded to earlier, 60,000 cardiac arrests happen outside hospitals—two thirds in the home and one third in public. In the public arena there is often a witness, and in half those cases somebody who would be able to do something if they were properly trained. Irreversible brain damage to an individual who is not helped can take place in very few minutes. Every minute counts and there is a 10% reduction in someone’s chances of survival for every minute that passes. That must be put in context with the time the ambulance takes to arrive. The target at the moment is eight minutes, and 75% of ambulances make that. If we do our maths, however, we can see that it does not leave long to get professionals to the site.

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is not just about heart attacks? Unbelievably, a four-year-old in my constituency who is a carer for her mother undertook training with the local ambulance crew. She was able to put her mother in the recovery position and managed to save her life. That was at four years old.

That is a wonderful example of what can be done. There is often a sense that this issue applies only to older children, but younger children can also learn valuable skills.

I commend my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Does she agree that if we educate pupils, they in turn can educate their parents? A school in Cheshire teaches emergency life support, and I understand that a parent of one of its pupils was able to administer the appropriate action when confronted with someone choking in a restaurant.

That is an excellent example and I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution.

If we look across the world, the UK does not find itself in a happy, comparable position in terms of the teaching of ELS and survival rates. Our survival rate following a cardiac arrest is pretty poor and quite variable—it depends on where someone is in the country. The survival rate for those who suffer an arrest is between 2% and 12% after they leave hospital. The British Heart Foundation estimates that 75% of people are untrained. That means that only 25% of the population have some training and the number of people in our community who are able to help is very small.

My hon. Friend is generous in giving way. Speaking to the British Heart Foundation today, I discovered that only 13% of children leave school with some sort of training in CPR. Although I have reservations about making such training compulsory in schools, does she agree that making CPR courses available to children and encouraging their use in schools is key?

It is key that courses are available and recommended, but I will come to compulsion later. My hon. Friend is right that the number of children who have access to training is relatively small, but all credit to the British Heart Foundation, which started its Heartstart programme in 1996. We now have courses in life-saving skills in 400 of our secondary schools. The problem is that it has taken 16 years to cover only 10% of secondary schools, so it will take an awfully long time to get to 100%.

The position in Europe is much better. Eighty per cent. of residents of Scandinavia and Germany have first aid skills because they learned them in schools and elsewhere. The survival rate from a shockable cardiac arrest in Norway is 52%, whereas our survival rate is between 2% and 12%. Compulsory training is common in Europe—Norway, Denmark and France are good examples. Across the pond, 36 US states have legislation requiring the training. The cardiac arrest survival rate in Seattle is twice what the survival rate is in the UK, and 50% of the population is trained.

Does the hon. Lady agree that there is a lack of understanding in this country that young people suffer cardiac arrest? We need to do more, because it is not just an older persons’ illness.

The hon. Gentleman makes an appropriate point. He is right. There is an additional benefit—on top of the volume of people who will end up trained—because cardiac arrest happens to young people as well.

The hon. Lady is extremely generous in giving way, and I congratulate her on securing this debate. She mentioned a number of countries and US states where training is compulsory. Compulsory training could give us much greater chances of survival. I hope she will tell us she is in favour of mandatory training.

The right hon. Lady makes an appropriate and fair point. As they say in business, what gets measured gets done. We have training in this country, but it is not measured. There is no record of how much CPR is included. ELS is included in personal, social, health and economic education, but it is not consistent. We consequently do not get the results that other countries get.

Why do we raise the issue of life-saving skills now? We are doing so in part because we have the evidence, some of which I have just shared with the House, but there is also clear public support. In response to the British Heart Foundation survey in February 2011, 86% of teachers said ELS should be included in the curriculum, and 78% of children said they wanted to be taught it. The evidence is that they enjoy it, and that it gives them a broader sense of self-worth and value within the community. Seventy per cent. of parents believe it should be taught. This will not be an uphill battle, because everybody wants it.

There was a moment when ELS became front and foremost in everyone’s thinking—when Fabrice Muamba tragically collapsed on the football pitch in March. But for an individual with ELS skills coming on to the pitch, he may not have survived as well as he has. That led to the Love Heart campaign in The Sun—well done to The Sun; that was a great campaign that attracted a lot of support. Ultimately, a petition of 130,000 signatures was delivered, asking for us to ensure that we have ELS training in schools. Support in the charitable and third sectors is huge. The British Heart Foundation, the British Medical Association, Cardiac Risk in the Young, St John Ambulance and the Red Cross support it—I could go on, but I am conscious that time is not on my side.

As hon. Members have said, there are some great examples of the community providing training voluntarily. Dawlish community college in my constituency does one whole day on emergency life-saving skills for year 10s. A recent Ofsted report found the school to be good, and outstanding for leadership and management. Does that not show?

What is the way forward? The first option is to continue with the status quo, but as we have seen, results are patchy. ELS is included in PHSE, but it is not mandatory or delivered consistently. CPR is often not included. My view is that we will not achieve what we need to achieve as a society with the status quo.

The second option is making ELS a mandatory piece of the PHSE curriculum. Under the current review, although PHSE will not be mandatory, the Minister has said that bits of it will be identified and made so. ELS could be included in the science or physical education curriculums. The Minister could also consider including it as a compulsory element in teacher training, so at least our teachers will have the training. She could also think about including it as a necessary part of the National Citizen Service programme.

The second option has been debated on many occasions, and the objections to it have been very much the same each time. Let me briefly rehearse them and say why they no longer stand ground. The first argument is that the curriculum is too full and teachers need choice. I agree that the curriculum is too full and that we need to ensure that the core subjects are taught well, but I also agree with choice. It is appropriate to consider what is included in PHSE. When the matter was last debated, even my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who was then the answering Minister, could see the priority of ELS. He was lobbied to include knitting in PHSE, but agreed that knitting simply does not have the same value as ELS. It is perfectly possible both to include it and to retain flexibility in the curriculum. As I have said, it is only a two-hour course. On choice, we could say to schools, “It is compulsory, though you have the choice of including it in PHSE, science or PE, but it must be measured by Ofsted.” That would give flexibility.

The second argument usually advanced against the proposal is cost and resource. The British Heart Foundation has estimated that it will cost £2,200 a year per school, but that is not a huge amount of money. The charitable sector, trainee doctors and general practitioners can get involved in teaching on a voluntary basis. They will do it for free, and the cascade principle says that if we teach the teachers, they will teach others and so on. I suspect that the number of people wanting to get involved and to help for free would make this a relatively inexpensive activity.

We must set that against the cost to the public purse. If an increasing number of people have brain damage when they need not have it and are kept on life support machines in hospitals, or if there is an increasing number of people who survive but who must be supported at home, the bill goes up. A day in hospital costs £400 or £500. As hon. Members know, disability living allowance can be £131 a week. That adds up to a sizeable bill. It is not just about money—there is also a cost to the family and society. As a nation, we believe in prevention rather than cure. The question, therefore, is not whether we can afford to do this, but whether we can afford not to.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing this important issue to the Floor of the House. I was contacted by a constituent whose brother-in-law had a huge heart attack at the age of 46 while at work. If a colleague of his had not had CPR skills to keep him alive until the ambulance arrived, he would have passed away. Does that not emphasise how important it is to give our young people those skills for the whole of their lives to help to save other people’s lives?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and leads me to the third and final objection I suspect will be raised, which is the problem of physically damaging somebody’s health through CPR by, for example, breaking a rib. No one has ever been sued for helping somebody in those circumstances. When a person has a cardiac arrest, they are almost clinically dead—only the brain is still going. So someone helping a person who has had a cardiac arrest cannot do any more physical damage because the person is pretty much dead, and no one has been sued; indeed, I do not believe that people in this country would support such legal action. In exchange for training, these young people have a huge opportunity.

In conclusion, the case has been made for emergency life-saving skills to be taught in schools consistently, to ensure it happens in all schools. It is the right thing to do for society and for the economy. It is not just a decision for the Secretary of State for Education. For all the reasons I have mentioned, the Minister should work with the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the Cabinet Office. This is a broad issue. Not making it mandatory is the triumph of hope over experience.

I warmly welcome this debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) and other hon. Members on bringing this issue before the House, and commend all the newspaper and petitioning activity that led to that. It is not every motion before the House of which we can say it will save thousands of lives and cost very little, but that is precisely what this motion will do if the Government follow through on it, as the hon. Lady has been advocating. I wholeheartedly agree with everything she said about making it mandatory and with her demolition of all the arguments against it.

In the brief time allowed, I want to refer to a programme that originated 15 years ago at the John Radcliffe hospital in my constituency, which has been extended to nine other centres in the UK and emulated overseas in Hong Kong and Belarus. The injury minimisation programme for schools was, like most of the best ideas, very simple and obvious once someone was clever enough to think of it. The idea is that if we educate children in accident prevention and what to do when there is an accident, and at an age when they are old enough to understand and apply the lessons but before they become especially sensitive about their bodies, that will cut accidents and save lives. The programme works by combining work in the classroom with a visit to hospital to learn emergency life skills. Approximately 5,000 10 and 11-year-olds in Oxfordshire take part each year. Children enjoy it, teachers value it, and, most importantly, it works.

I congratulate all who work on the programme—its administrators and volunteers, as well as the medical staff and teachers. I have met children on the course, and it is uplifting to see their enthusiasm for the knowledge and practical skills that they have learned, and how proud they are to go home and tell their parents that they know how to save their life. I have one feedback message from a youngster who went on the programme:

“I have shown my mum how to do the recovery position! She was very impressed! I told her about CPR and I now know that if someone has collapsed then I could save their life. Hope you enjoy my feedback. Please carry on teaching children to save people’s lives.”

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the practice were adopted and made mandatory, it could improve social cohesion? Young people could have the skills to save the lives of people from the older generation, and that would change perceptions in society.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. It is vital to understand what children are capable of, and that we do not underestimate the live-saving skills they can learn. There is hard evidence for that. In a scientific abstract to the international conference on emergency medicine in June, the journal Academic Emergency Medicine reported on a study assessing whether children can defibrillate. The study was done properly and rigorously, with control groups and so on, and chi-squared analysis of the conclusion. In concluded:

“This study demonstrates that children aged 11-years-old can use a defibrillator effectively and safely, and retain this knowledge over several weeks”—

and that active training, unsurprisingly, is the most effective way of teaching it to them.

There is perhaps even more important feedback in the case histories that the St John Ambulance has circulated to all hon. Members, where children of that age have been shown to save lives, either of their peers or of their parents in some circumstances.

I wholeheartedly agree, and I have similar evidence from IMPS. What is more, and as the hon. Member for Newton Abbot argued, such initiatives are very cost-effective. The IMPS estimate is that it costs approximately £16 a head to enable children to take part. I would like to raise a couple of points about funding.

In Oxfordshire, 50% of the cost of IMPS has been met by the PCT, there has been some support from the county council, and the rest of the cost has been met by fundraising initiatives. Of course, classroom time and teacher involvement is met from the base education budget, which is right because there are wider commensurate educational benefits relating to the self-esteem of children who take part. Funding for some of the other centres is under acute pressure. Sadly, the Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster IMPS closed because of shortage of funds—absolutely tragic when one thinks of the benefits.

There is also a general issue about future funding with the establishment of the NHS Commissioning Board. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us whether funding for this sort of initiative will be the responsibility of the Commissioning Board as the main successor to the PCT, whether it will fall to the county council with its public health responsibilities, or whether the responsibility will be shared. Whichever it is, it is essential that IMPS and similar initiatives are enabled to continue and thrive to form the basis of what we hope will be part of the mandatory curriculum provision for which we are arguing. At the end of the day, there can be nothing more important than helping children save lives, both their own and those of others.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) on securing the debate on a subject that I know she is passionate about. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), as we have been pushing on this collectively for some time. I feel that we are making some progress.

The debate is essential, because we are talking about creating the next generation of life-savers. Let me use some cold, hard statistics to reinforce that point. Some 60,000 people a year will have a cardiac arrest. The survival rates in this country are disgracefully low—between 2% and 12%—which means that approximately 55,000 people a year will die from a cardiac arrest. About half of those are, in theory, able to get help through the ambulance service, but on average it takes approximately 6 to 12 minutes for an emergency ambulance to reach a critically ill patient. For every minute that passes, the chance of survival falls by 10%. However, if CPR is given immediately, survival rates increase threefold. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot said, we really cannot do any worse by leaving somebody in that position.

The great shame is that most people are simply not able to help. For about half of the 60,000, there are witnesses on hand who could help, but most either do not have the skills or lack the confidence even to try something. By training and educating individuals, we can radically alter the situation. I have heard horrific stories of crowds gathering round, with no one willing to step in. Thankfully, the evidence clearly shows that, with training, lay people can overcome the psychological barriers and manage the patient until more advanced and experienced personnel arrive.

Those are the cold, hard statistics, but I was in such a position with my own father. When I was 12, my father collapsed. My attempts to help were, at best, muddled, and passers-by then helped. We all rely on people having that confidence to go and make a difference. Sadly, my father was one of those statistics who did not survive. We will never know, had we all been equipped with the skills, what difference that would have made.

What we are asking for would take only 0.2% of the school year. It takes less than two hours to train a young person fully in emergency life-saving skills. To put that into context, that is the equivalent of one PE lesson. I am conscious that schools Ministers are for ever lobbied by campaigns saying, “This would be very important for the national curriculum.” I am as guilty as any MP for asking for financial education, basic cookery skills and a variety of other campaigns. However, we are trying to be helpful; we would be happy if such training were included in PSHE, as long as it was a mandatory part of it. It could go into biology, as one understands how the breathing system and the heart works. It could go into PE lessons, especially given the number of sports therapists we would like to encourage. We are not proud—as long as we can get it in somewhere.

We are told that there is a limit to the amount of time available in the national curriculum, yet we find time for every school to practise fire drills. They are important, but 60,000 people a year having a cardiac arrest is certainly up there with fire drills. We could take the training in assemblies. If we really are struggling with the school curriculum, then there are always driving lessons, because all young people want to take lessons—we are trying to be as helpful as we possibly can be.

The training is straightforward. At a recent meeting of the all-party group on heart disease, I and all of my staff took part, and it was a breeze—it was pretty impressive for us for it to be a breeze. The training can be broken into three levels and even the most basic form of training can make a difference. For example, the body has enough oxygen in the blood so that even basic compression CPR is sufficient for 15 minutes. Crucially, these skills will remain with people for the rest of their lives. We will create a new generation of life-savers and they can pass their skills on, so it is a win-win situation. We have the evidence that it will work. It will allow us to change the prognosis of this devastating condition and save thousands of lives a year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot made great play of international comparisons, talking about the improvements in France, Denmark, Norway and Seattle. The cold, hard statistics show that, where such training is compulsory, survival rates are not 2% to 12% but 52%. That means that an extra 15,000 lives a year would be saved.

Does my hon. Friend agree that children would thoroughly enjoy learning emergency life-saving in school? Instead of sitting in the classroom reading books, they would be getting involved; it is hands-on. They would enjoy it, and learn quickly, too.

My hon. Friend has been a good supporter of our ongoing campaign, and his question leads me on to my next point.

This idea has huge public support. According to a British Heart Foundation survey, 86% of teachers think that ELS should be part of the national curriculum—we have the opportunity to get teachers’ support—and 78% of children want to be taught how to save someone’s life in an emergency, which touches on my hon. Friend’s point. Furthermore, 70% of parents thought that children should be taught ELS at school.

Following Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest and with the help of a campaign by The Sun, which we all supported, more than 100,000 people signed the e-petition—it is one of the few that quickly racked up the 100,000 signatures. I was delighted to read today that, although Fabrice Muamba thought his football career was over, he has said he will review that decision in two years, if his heart rate settles. That would be a fantastic achievement. He was technically dead for more than 70 minutes, but, because of ELS, he survived, and he has gone on to get married. That is a testament to the difference it can make.

In conclusion, ELS would make a real difference to survival rates. Training takes less than two hours, and the skills remain for life. Through education empowerment, a new generation of life-savers will be created, saving thousands of lives a year. I hope that we can make this a compulsory element of children’s education and create an army of life-savers with the confidence and skills to save a life.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris)—I hope her foot gets better—and pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), who had a ten-minute rule Bill on this issue in the previous Session, which sadly fell. I congratulate other Members, too, who have taken this message forward.

I am a signatory to early-day motion 550, which calls for compulsory ELS in schools. I have also undertaken a three-day course with St John Ambulance—so I know, I hope, how to save a life—and I am a member of the Health Committee. Making ELS compulsory in schools would send the message to children: “Don’t walk on the other side. You can help someone. When you see someone, you can help them.” That is an incredibly empowering message. The simple task of knowing the recovery position, or even knowing when not to move a person—for example, if they have hurt their neck—are important skills. We are saying to them, “Don’t be afraid. You can be concerned, but don’t be afraid when someone is having a heart attack or is distressed.”

There are many children with conditions such as epilepsy or even diabetes—they will have to inject themselves—and children with siblings or parents with such conditions. They will understand these conditions and be able to help. This idea is just an extension of that. The 2001 census found that 174,995 under-18s are carers. So many children already know how to look after adults. There are four simple measures: dialling 999; administering CPR; putting someone in the recovery position; or simply staying with them, holding their hand and talking to them. That can save lives, and those measures are the basis of ELS. It should be compulsory for them to be taught in schools

It will come as no surprise that Scotland has had voluntary engagement with pupils in schools for some time. In Inverclyde, we offered it to children in their lunch break, and we were astounded by how many came forward to learn these skills.

I agree with my hon. Friend. As we have heard, different parts of different countries are doing this on a voluntary basis, but we are calling for something more: for it to be compulsory as part of education.

I had the privilege of administering CPR during the last conference recess. Most Members—certainly of my generation—will know the tune of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. That is the kind of rhythm one should use to administer CPR. [Interruption.] I will not sing it, although I can hum it. I want to bring that up to date. I do not know, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you have seen this hit song on YouTube, but “Gangnam Style” has a similar beat, and in fact the first movement of the dance is similar to that required for administering CPR—as long as the person uncrosses their hands. Imagine teaching that in schools. How wonderful it would be to engage children in that way.

The British Medical Association has said that almost 60,000 people suffer from out-of-hospital strokes, and evidence shows that CPR can triple the rate of survival. I urge the Government to take that onboard, to listen to Back Benchers—for a change—and to include training on it as part of the curriculum. It is compulsory in Norway, Denmark and France. Let us embed it in our children’s psyche, engrain it and make it part of their DNA. After all, it is a matter of life and death.

In making a brief contribution, I shall carry on where the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) left off—with how a piece of music can save a life. She is so right. In a slightly different context, I remember listening to a radio interview with the wife of the great violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. She said she was always terribly worried when her husband played Beethoven’s violin concerto, and when it got to a certain bit—when she knew the end was nigh—she used to sing to herself, “Thank God it’s over, thank God it’s over”. That has ruined Beethoven’s violin concerto for me ever since, because I have never been able to get it out of my mind.

Reading the briefing, I did indeed see that, “Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive” is apparently the rhythm that should be followed when administering CPR. I read that in the context of a report from the Daily Mail on 10 January, helpfully included by the Library in the debate pack. In it Dr Rob Galloway told the story of the rector of St Nicholas church in Sevenoaks, Angus MacLeay, who collapsed at the age of 51 and died—but his son and his friend had been told how to administer CPR. The report read:

“Although they had only a few hours’ training, it’s all they needed to know instinctively what to do. They took it in turns, pushing down on the chest in a continuous cycle”

that the experts say should, indeed, follow the rhythm of that famous Bee Gees song. Two weeks later he was back at home, having died and been saved by his son.

It also works if the person sings “Nellie the Elephant”—for those of us who are more musically challenged or who cannot remember “Stayin’ Alive”—although it has to be a fast version.

I look forward to the hon. Lady’s rendition when she speaks—very shortly, I hope—and I pay tribute to her, to my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) and to other hon. Members. I was particularly touched by the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), when he said what happened to him and his late father.

My own background in this subject is slight. I have been involved with organisations such as Cardiac Risk in the Young, which campaigns to have young people screened for heart defects that otherwise no one would know were present, and with the battle to save the children’s heart hospital at Southampton general hospital, which is one of the best in the country and fortunately will not now be reorganised out of existence.

My immediate incentive for coming to today’s debate was a letter I received from my constituent Natasha Jones, who lives in Brockenhurst, who has set up an organisation called Baby Resuscitation. During the summer of 2010, she experienced an episode with her 11-week-old daughter of what is known as near-miss cot death, when her baby stopped breathing and was drifting in and out of consciousness. At the time, my constituent had no resuscitation training. It was only her maternal instincts that succeeded in keeping her baby alive until professional help arrived. As in the case of so many others, including my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon, the experience motivated my constituent, spurring her on to do something to ensure that the availability of skill would not be hit and miss in future. That is why she set up the Baby Resuscitation scheme, which is over-subscribed and to which parents go to get the skills they need. The point she makes to me is how much more vitally helpful and productive it would be if children had to learn such skills at school.

I know many people want to speak. This seems to me such an obviously admirable cause that I do not need to say anything more, other than that I wholeheartedly support it and I look to Minister to give the campaign the encouragement and endorsement that it clearly deserves.

I join others in congratulating the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) on securing this debate. I also pay tribute to my colleagues in the campaign, the hon. Members for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) and for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), which is dear to our hearts.

This is a

“no brainer, it’s just common sense”.

Those are not my words, but the words of Dr Andy Lockey from the Resuscitation Council. He and another 124,665 people are calling on the Government to put emergency life support skills in the curriculum for all schools. For just two hours every year, we could make every child a life saver—just two hours that may save some of the 150,000 people who die each year in situations where first aid could have made a difference; two hours that could save some of the 60,000 people who have a cardiac arrest outside the hospital environment.

On 17 March this year, Fabrice Muamba was playing for Bolton Wanderers against Tottenham when he suffered a cardiac arrest. Fabrice was really lucky, because he had his cardiac arrest in a public place where there were trained first aiders; because the paramedics at the match were knowledgeable enough to give him immediate CPR on the pitch, so that his brain was saved; and because medics did not give up, but worked on him for 78 minutes until his heart restarted. Just because he was with people who knew what to do he survived, although sadly he has had to give up football—I was interested to hear the hon. Member for North Swindon say that it might not be for life. Fabrice joined us to take the British Heart Foundation’s petition, signed by 124,665 people, to Downing street.

My sister’s friend Malcolm McCormick was also really lucky. In April this year, he went to school to pick up his grandchildren when he keeled over—effectively dead, not breathing, heart not beating. Malcolm was really lucky because one of the people waiting to collect their children was a retained firefighter, who started to give CPR. He was also really lucky because once a month another firefighter volunteers in the school tuck shop and it was his Friday to be working, so he came out and took control of the situation. Malcolm was also lucky because a defibrillator was available and he was rushed to a specialist hospital. Malcolm left hospital three days later with very sore ribs, albeit alive and with his brain intact. Four months later he was fit enough to be a games maker at the Paralympic games.

However, it should not be down to luck, because there are far too many other examples of people suffering a cardiac arrest not being saved because the people around them do not know what to do. They include children such as Ciaran Geddes, who died aged seven, 12-year-old Oliver King, 16-year-old Daniel Young and 17-year-old Guy Evans. Their mums are campaigning for defibrillators and for emergency life-saving skills to be taught in schools. The Government have a chance to make a difference—to save lives simply, cheaply and immediately. They have said that they want a national curriculum to reflect the

“essential knowledge and understanding that pupils should be expected to have to enable them to take their place as educated members of society.”

Surely knowing how to save a life would be absolutely in keeping with that aspiration.

I cannot imagine anything worse than watching a loved one die and not knowing what to do—especially if we find out later that doing something may have saved their life—so I have become a Heartstart trainer. I can teach people to do CPR and deal with choking and bleeding, and my staff are Heartstart trained. All the secondary schools in Bolton West have become or are becoming Heartstart schools, and they are rolling the programme out to the primary schools. There is co-ordinated action across Bolton to train as many children and adults in emergency life-saving skills as possible. The North West ambulance service, the fire brigade, Bolton Wanderers, Bolton council and the British Heart Foundation are all working together to teach the skills and promote defibrillators. In the new year, The Bolton News will run a campaign to get schools to sign up for Heartstart and raise funds for defibrillators in schools and public places.

Fabrice Muamba’s collapse raised awareness locally about the dangers of sudden cardiac arrest. The response in Bolton has been fantastic, but it cannot go far enough until every child leaves school a life saver. I met two 13-year-olds in Horwich on Saturday who had just learnt life support skills as part of their PE lessons in Rivington and Blackrod high school. Demi told me it made her feel good about herself because she can save a life. Matthew told me that he feels confident because if anything happened to someone, he would know what to do. Mark Roach, the Heartstart co-ordinator at Ladybridge high school, told me that his pupils leave school with a real life skill that they can pass on to others, and they do the lessons during form time. There are many places where Heartstart would fit into the curriculum. My local lead teacher for PE believes it would fit perfectly into the PE curriculum. Other schools do it as part of personal, social, health and economic education or biology, but where it fits is less important. Emergency life-saving skills should be part of the core curriculum, taught in all schools.

The Government like to compare themselves internationally. As has been said, in France, Denmark and Norway, ELS is already a compulsory part of the curriculum, as it is in a number of states in Australia and 36 of the 50 states in America. In Seattle, because no one can graduate from school or gain their driving licence without leaning first aid skills, more than half the population is trained in emergency life support. In the UK, there is only a 30% chance of a bystander administered CPR; in Seattle it is 60%. People have double the chance of surviving a cardiac arrest in Seattle than they do in the UK. Since the British Heart Foundation has run its “Hands-only CPR” advert with Vinnie Jones—to “Stayin’ Alive”—another 28 people have been saved because bystanders “had a go”, but it is not enough. As Dr Lockey says,

“Every year we don’t teach Emergency Life Support Skills to all school children, people are dying unnecessarily”.

The Government should act now and make emergency life-saving skills part of the core curriculum in schools. They can save lives now.

I cannot tell you how important I think this debate is, Mr Deputy Speaker. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) on securing it. I also congratulate the hon. Members who have spoken—with a great deal of knowledge and personal experience—about how important this issue is. The hon. Lady made an excellent speech, touching on all the key issues, and asked most of the key questions.

I will speak from personal experience. I qualified as a lifeguard in the mid-1990s. I did it to support my daughters, who were in a swimming club that needed voluntary lifeguards. I trained every two years and did the exam. During that process my children trained with me—we used to practise the various required skills on the front room floor. I was fortunate that there were no major incidents in the pool during the almost 10 years in which I turned up five nights a week to lifeguard—as parents do from time to time. However, on dry land it was altogether different. Let me cite some examples.

I remember stepping off a London bus one day to see a woman lying on the pavement, literally in front of me, and five people standing around, before doing the basic checks and asking people, “Has anybody done anything? Has anybody moved her?” Everybody stood there, shook their heads and said no, either because they were too scared or because they did not know what to do. The lady was unconscious, and was still unconscious when the ambulance arrived. Again, it was people’s lack of knowledge that prevented them from doing even the basic checks—that her pulse was there and she was breathing.

On another occasion I was on a train, travelling into London, sitting opposite a very large gentleman who was clearly in difficulty. My assessment was that he was having a cardiac episode of some kind. We cleared the area around him. I asked whether there were any doctors or nurses on the train; there were not. People were coming up to me as I was in the middle of it all, asking, “Shouldn’t you ring his wife?” I got someone to stay with the man and keep him calm, went down the carriage with the woman and said, “Well, what do we tell her—that her husband is having an episode on a train in the middle of nowhere and we don’t know which hospital he is going to?” “Oh,” she said. Common sense, I am afraid, rather goes out of the window when these things happen. He was a very large gentleman and I was worried that if he actually went on me, he would not fit in the gap between the seats so that I could do CPR. So I was struggling about how I was going to do it, but fortunately we got to a station and the ambulance got there and took him away for expert treatment. Again, at the end of that, people came up and said, “Thank God you were there. We didn’t know what to do. We were scared”—exactly the same comments.

The final example was in Brighton, at the Grand hotel, when I was having a dinner during conference. One of the guests started choking, slumped and started to go blue. So it was a Heimlich manoeuvre. I have to say it was my boss, so it was probably just as well I did it, not least because he is alive and I have now just married him; but that is another story.

Yes. But again, the comments came back, “Thank heavens. We didn’t know what to do.” The basic skills are so simple and so easy to teach, and once you have them you almost automatically go into support mode, as I did in the hotel in Brighton. I admit that afterwards I was shaking a bit, but none the less you just do it, because that is what you have been trained to do.

Children are like sponges. They soak up information, and if they can see a practical use for it, they will learn even more quickly. This week, I am going to talk to pupils at Manadon Vale primary school about this very issue, as part of the discussion. Knowing basic techniques, such as being able to administer support when someone is having a cardiac arrest, is absolutely vital. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) said, being in a situation where a loved one is having a cardiac arrest or perhaps where the baby is choking and not knowing what to do is unimaginable. I really cannot imagine how someone must feel in those circumstances. Teaching the basics is so important.

Of course there are people who say, “I don’t want to do the mouth-to-mouth bit.” They could do hands-only, as a number of Members have said. I still walk around carrying a British Red Cross Resusci-Shield for mouth-to-mouth, because I do think it is important to have one, but it is possible to do it hands-only, and one certainly should try.

The hon. Member for Newton Abbot spoke about the lesson in which these skills should be taught being flexible. I think that is a really good proposal. We need to move towards ensuring these skills are taught as a matter of course in our schools. Pregnant mothers should have a basic training as well, because there are lives to be saved. The idea that such training is too onerous is a perennial excuse. I ask the Minister not to hide behind that.

Importantly, I would ask the Minister to go away and talk with colleagues in other Departments—in Health and in Communities and Local Government—because there are benefits across other Departments and there are possibly even some cost savings, ultimately, which the Government are obviously very interested in. Most important of all, lives will be saved. Children and young people are very capable of using these skills, and that is the time to teach them.

I shall speak very briefly; I am a late interloper into the debate, but I wanted to raise two points. Actually, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck) has touched on them already. I recently attended a demonstration of CPR. The instructor was at pains to say that mouth-to-mouth was not essential but CPR was, and that some people are put off volunteering for such courses because they are fearful of engaging in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. That is what my hon. Friend said, so she emphasised, “Do not press the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”

I congratulate the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) on launching this superb debate, and all those who spoke so excellently. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View deserves a medal because she has saved several lives.

I want to speak specifically about water life-saving, because 55 years ago I acquired an intermediate life-saver’s certificate. I have never had to use it, but I think even now I could do the basics and get someone out of the water without drowning myself, and get them breathing again—free their tongue, and all the things that I remembered when I was 14 or 15. That is a subset of life-saving, but it is very important and I hope that the Government bear in mind the encouragement for people to take up life-saving in water as well as dealing with cardiac arrests.

Those were the two points that I wanted to raise. I promised to speak for two minutes, and I hope I was not too long.

We have had a very good debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris), whose name appears at the head of the motion, on her very fine speech, which drew a lot of agreement across the House. She was absolutely right to emphasise that without compulsion, we simply will not get the levels of performance and the number of lives saved that we want, in comparison with other countries. I shall return to that point later.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford East (Mr Smith) rightly said that we must not underestimate what children are capable of. The hon. Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) rightly said that we need to get on and train the next generation of life-savers, and he mentioned, as other Members did, the survival rate of 2% to 12% of cardiac arrests in this country compared with 52% in the better jurisdictions. He also, movingly, told us about his own personal experience involving his father, which brought a lot of sympathy from across the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) did her speech gangnam-style, which I thought very appropriate. On MP4’s album, track 2, “Love’s Fire,” is also about the same rhythm, although it is not as well known as the other examples given. The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) also spoke with personal experience. I can assure him that no one was saying, “Thank God it’s over,” at the end of his speech, which was a very effective contribution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), who herself is common sense on legs, told us that it is simply common sense for us to be teaching these skills and making that teaching compulsory. She gave us real examples of where young lives had been saved. We also heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck), who brought her personal experience as a trained lifeguard and who saved her future husband as a result of that training. Only time will tell whether she lives to regret that but, all joking aside, she showed the importance of these skills. Briefly, my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) drew on his personal experience.

We support the inclusion of life-saving skills as a compulsory element in our schools. We are open-minded, as hon. Members said, as to how we achieve that—PSHE might be the best subject in which to include that on a statutory basis. The motion does not actually spell that out, but it says that everyone should learn these skills. My question on these occasions is always, “If that is what the House wants to happen, what is the transmissions mechanism to ensure that it does happen?” The Government frequently talk about the necessity of following the examples of high-performing jurisdictions when we are looking at what schools do well and at the outcomes, so how about, on this occasion their following their own advice and looking at what happens in high-performing jurisdictions around the world as far as life-saving skills are concerned? I am afraid the evidence is clear that unless the Government spell out that such training should be compulsory and must be taught in schools, it simply will not work and we will continue to have the very slow progress in saving lives that the hon. Member for Newton Abbot talked about in her speech.

That would not be acceptable, because we are talking about people’s lives. What is the barrier anyway? All the arguments against the proposal have been demolished in the debate, so the only objection can be an ideological one relating to telling schools what to do. That is not a good enough reason when we are talking about saving lives. Unless this is made a requirement in all our schools, it will happen only in some of them. We can already see that on the ground.

Earlier this afternoon, just before I dashed over here for the debate, I was talking to children from Lansdowne primary school in my constituency. I took the opportunity to talk to them about life-saving skills, and some had been taught those skills, but only as part of their first aid club activities. When I asked whether they thought that everyone should learn them, they were unanimous in agreeing that they should. Children and young people are up for this, and as has been observed, they are like sponges and can learn these skills quite quickly. The training need not take up a huge, burdensome amount of time in the curriculum. There is therefore no reason for the Government not to listen to what has been said by Members on both sides of the House today and come forward with proposals to ensure that this training happens in all our schools.

As the Government’s changes to the school system continue, this proposal will become more difficult to implement. It is already the case that nearly half of all secondary schools do not have to follow the national curriculum, following the academisation programme. We have heard today about the £1 billion overspend on that programme, which will take money away from other areas of the Department for Education’s budget. We have no evidence yet to show whether their academisation programme is working. It is fine to change the name and governance of a group of schools, but we need to see evidence that that is working. There is, however, evidence of the negative impact of those cuts being felt elsewhere. If academies are not required to follow the national curriculum and cannot be directed to introduce these programmes, it is likely that the life-saving skills situation will get worse. The Minister needs to get a grip on this.

Indeed it was, but that was a small, targeted programme aimed at a small number of schools in deprived areas. The hon. Lady’s policy is completely different, in that it aims to roll out academy status. I think that about 47% of secondary schools in England now have that status. So her policy is on a completely different scale from ours, and she must adjust her policy according to those facts.

The Minister will no doubt say that she hopes the proposals will be introduced as a result of the motion being passed today, but unless she can tell us, perhaps in her forthcoming announcements, that they will be made a statutory part of PHSE or that she has some other way of achieving this, it simply will not happen. I can predict here and now that, if she does not take action, we will be back here debating this issue in a couple of years. Unless she makes this training a compulsory part of the curriculum, the statistics will not get much better.

We support the motion, for all the reasons that have been outlined in the debate, and the Minister should tell the House whether she agrees with what has been said. I know that she won the “Minister to Watch” award yesterday at The Spectator magazine’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards. During her acceptance speech, she thanked the Secretary of State for Education for “not fettering or gagging” her. Well, here is an opportunity for her to show that she is not being fettered or gagged by the Secretary of State, that she is her own woman, that she is in charge of her brief and that she is going to get on and make this training compulsory, as everyone here has called for today.

We have had an interesting debate, and I know that many people feel very strongly about the provision of emergency life-saving skills in schools. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) and her colleagues, who have come together to put the subject on the agenda today. I have learned a great deal today about ELS, about staying alive and about the singing skills of some Members. The next time I tune in to “Saturday Night Fever”, I shall no doubt think about resuscitation.

We have heard some affecting stories about the impact of ELS and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training on Members and their families. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear them, and to have the subject brought to life. I agree that the ability to save a life is one of the most important skills a young person can learn. I also recognise the excellent work being done by organisations such as the Red Cross, with its “Life. Live it” campaign and resources, and St John Ambulance with its classroom-focused “Teach the Difference” resources and schools first aid competition. In addition, the British Heart Foundation’s Heartstart campaign has already trained 2.6 million people, including many young people in our schools. I met representatives of that organisation earlier this week.

While the Minister is talking about those initiatives, will she respond to the question I posed in my speech about whether the funding that currently comes from primary care trusts for initiatives such as the injury minimisation programme for schools—IMPS—in my constituency will in future be the responsibility of the commissioning groups or of the county council? If she does not know, will she undertake to write to me with the answer?

I was just about to mention the right hon. Gentleman and IMPS. I will certainly take up the matter with the Department of Health in order to understand that specific point.

Schools are free to take up all the programmes I have just mentioned and to make use of those reputable organisations in order to bring the subject to life and teach it in a high-quality way in schools. I am keen to see a higher take-up of the subject; I think it is a good thing. I want to see it done in such a way that quality will be on offer. The hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) asked how we could achieve what we want in Britain’s schools. Should it be done through compulsion or through winning hearts and minds? I favour the approach of winning hearts and minds and of improving practice in schools, rather than ordering something to be done compulsorily and not necessarily getting the quality we need.

When the national curriculum was first devised in the 1980s, it was seen as a slim guide to core knowledge, with schools having the freedom to teach in the way they saw fit. However, even its first draft was far larger than its originators intended. A lot of that came about through people wanting particular subjects to be included, often for laudable reasons. I am now working on the drafts for the new national curriculum at primary and secondary level, and it is our intention that it should be slimmed to reflect a framework for essential knowledge. It has been rather content-heavy in the past, which has restricted what schools teach and how they are able to teach it.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) has given me many helpful suggestions over the past few weeks. Even though I have not been in the job long, I have had quite a few meetings with him at which he has suggested various topics that he considers to be part of that core knowledge, all of which we are considering. It is our aim, however, to reduce unnecessary prescription throughout the education system.

I put it to the Minister that the teaching of life-saving skills is quite different from the range of other activities about which she has had representations. We are talking about learning a skill for life that could be taught in as little as two hours and that could save lives. There is nothing to compare to that, which is why it should be mandatory.

As I have said, I completely agree with those sentiments. This is an important area for students to study, but there are different and better ways of achieving that.

I am sorry; I have taken quite a few interventions, and Mr Deputy Speaker is keen to get on to the next debate.

As I have said, I believe that it is best to win hearts and minds. We can then ensure that the teaching of life-saving skills in our curriculum is first class. Compulsion could result in the subject being taught in a tick-box fashion.

Schools can choose to cover ELS as part of non-statutory personal, social, health and economic education, which we have already talked about. At primary level, PSHE provides for pupils to be taught aboutbasic emergency procedures and where to get help, and at secondary schools they can develop the skills tocope with emergency situations that require basic first aid procedures, including, at key stage 4, resuscitation techniques.

In this afternoon’s debate, I was struck by the fact that 86% of teachers are in favour of teaching life-saving skills at school, but that the take-up is much lower. From all the discussions I have had with the professionals in the organisations that design life-saving courses and offer them in schools, I have found that the reason teachers often give for not being able to take up these good programmes is that they do not have enough discretion within their teaching time and their curriculum time to be able to teach those subjects. Our whole aim of giving teachers more discretion and more time will surely mean much stronger take-up. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot pointed out, 86% of teachers want this subject to be taught. That is already a long way towards 100%; there is only another 14% to persuade.

From my own experience in education and that of my children, I know that schools have spent many hours a week teaching children to learn to swim, giving them the tools to save their own lives if they fall into water. Why can they not be given two hours a year to help save the lives of others?

I agree with my hon. Friend’s sentiments, but my point is that teachers want to do this and that we are giving them space in the curriculum to allow them to do so. I think that will result in a very positive outcome, but I also think it is better to win hearts and minds and allow freedom of judgment.

I need to reach the end of my comments to provide an opportunity for my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot to reply to the debate.

Today’s debate has been very helpful, and I agree completely with the sentiments expressed by hon. Members, but I think the best way of achieving the goal we want is to give teachers the freedom and the discretion to allow them to follow their natural instincts. We have already seen that 86% of teachers want to achieve this, so let us allow them to get on with it.

I will be brief. We have had an excellent debate. Given the restricted time available, I shall not name them all, but hon. Members’ contributions have been first class across the board. I have learned a lot; some wonderful personal insights have been shared.

The message I take from the all the contributions, however, is that it is the mood of the House—despite what the Minister has said—that this issue needs to be made compulsory. What gets measured gets done. If we think that we can achieve this without some element of compulsion, I am afraid that is little more than hope. It is not borne out by 10 years’ experience of trying, trying and trying again.

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions. The Minister has the message, and I hope she will take it away and discuss what can be done across the ministerial portfolio.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House believes every child should leave school knowing how to save a life.