[Sir David Amess in the Chair]
There is wide interest in the debate. From the Chair’s point of view, it would be helpful if colleagues quietly let the Clerk know who wishes to make a speech and who intends merely to intervene. Aside from the main speakers, it looks as though there will be about five minutes each for the rest.
It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I am grateful for the opportunity to have one last go in this Parliament to persuade the Government and my Front Benchers that there is a chance simply, easily, cheaply and immediately to save lives and to transform society.
Teaching emergency life support skills in schools and the community is
“a no brainer, it’s just common sense”.
Those words are not mine, but those of Dr Andy Lockey at the Resuscitation Council. There are 150,000 people a year who die in situations in which, if only someone had known what to do, their lives might have been saved. There are 30,000 people who have out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, but fewer than one in 10 survives. If only someone knew how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and if a defibrillator was available, survival rates could increase to 50%.
Emergency life support skills are a set of actions needed to keep somebody alive until professional help arrives. They include performing CPR, putting an unconscious person into the recovery position, dealing with choking and serious bleeding, and helping someone who might be having a heart attack. Such skills are particularly crucial at the time of a cardiac arrest, when every second counts. For every minute that passes in cardiac arrest, the chance of survival falls by 10%. If CPR is started immediately, the time that the person remains in a shockable, and hence reversible, condition will be prolonged. It also means that there will be more of the person’s brain function left—more of them left—if they are resuscitated. At the moment, it is down to luck.
Three years ago, Fabrice Muamba had a cardiac arrest when he was playing for Bolton Wanderers against Tottenham. Fabrice was lucky because he had his cardiac arrest where there were people who were trained in what to do. He was lucky because the club medics and the paramedics gave him immediate CPR on the pitch, so his brain was saved. He was lucky because medics did not give up on him and worked on him for 78 minutes until his heart restarted. Because he was with people who knew what to do, we still have the charming, intelligent Fabrice in this world with us.
My sister’s friend, Malcolm McCormick, was also lucky. Just a month after Fabrice’s cardiac arrest, Malcolm went to school to pick up his grandchildren and he keeled over, effectively dead, not breathing, heart not beating. Malcolm was lucky because one of the people waiting to collect children was a retained firefighter who started to give CPR. He was very lucky because once a month another firefighter volunteers in the school tuck shop, and it was his Friday to be working, so he came and took control of the situation.
Malcolm was also lucky because a defibrillator was available, and he was rushed to a specialist hospital. Three days later he left hospital with very sore ribs, but alive and with his brain intact. Four months later, he was a Games maker at the Paralympics.
A mother and daughter were at the launch of the campaign in Parliament square. The daughter had saved her mother’s life by recognising that she was not breathing, and she was able to do CPR until the ambulance came. Seeing mother at the launch, chirpy and with it, was a heart-warming thing.
The hon. and learned Gentleman clearly caught sight of my speech before he raised his point. I was about to go on to say that Mandy Hobbs was really lucky, too. Her 14-year-old daughter, Samantha, woke up to hear her father on the phone saying that he thought her mum was dead. Samantha had learnt CPR at her swimming life-saving club, and she says that she went on to autopilot and started chest compressions. When she got too tired to carry on, she taught her father what to do. Mandy survived and now Samantha has become the pin-up girl of the British Heart Foundation. Mandy, dad Nick and Samantha are regular visitors to Parliament, trying to persuade the Government to make first aid compulsory in schools.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate and I take the point that she is making as a fundamental premise, but does she agree that there is a role for local community campaigns, such as Heart of Gold and the Stephen Carey fund in Northumberland, which are trying to institute and organise more public access defibrillators around the county of Northumberland so that rural dwellers have that access, which saves lives?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. For me, it starts in schools. If only we could have—I will go on to talk about this more—a generation of life savers coming out of school. We have millions of people in the community who will not have had the benefit of being trained in schools. I applaud his organisations and the organisations in my constituency and across the country that do amazing work to raise money for defibrillators and for training individuals in how to do CPR.
Survival should not be down to luck. There are far too many other examples of people who suffer cardiac arrest and are not saved because the people around them do not know what to do: children such as Ciaran Geddes, who died aged 7; 12-year-old Oliver King; 16-year-old Daniel Young; or 17-year-old Guy Evans. Their mums are campaigning for defibrillators and emergency life-saving skills to be taught in schools.
Before I became an MP in 2005, I taught in a school where every single pupil in year 8 did a 12-week first aid course as part of their personal and social education. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is the type of programme that should be implemented so that every single child coming out of school would have those skills?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Absolutely, every school leaver a life saver is what we should be aiming for.
This Government—it may be my Government in two months’ time—have a chance to make a real difference. We want the national curriculum to reflect the essential knowledge and understanding that pupils should be expected to have to enable them to take their place as an educated member of society. Knowing how to save a life would be absolutely in keeping with that aspiration. Knowing how to save the life of a family member or a member of the public would enable children to have an impact on the health of society. Ensuring that life-saving skills were taught in schools would provide the chance to instil in all children how valuable life is and how important it is to be a good citizen.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing the debate. She is making a passionate case for something she clearly believes in deeply. Does she accept that this is part of a wider awareness that is needed among the community at large to raise the profile of first aid issues, not only in schools and in the workplace, but across the spectrum, because there are still not enough people who know what to do in an emergency of the kind that she has talked about? If I may, I will acknowledge the support she gave to my campaign for Millie’s Trust, which wants trained paediatric first aid nurses in nursery schools to be a statutory requirement.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and I congratulate him on Millie’s campaign, because it is absolutely crucial that people do not die when they could be saved. Currently, 7% of the population know how to save a life. Surely we could do much better.
We could join other countries such as France, Denmark and Norway, where emergency life support skills are already part of the curriculum, as they are in various states in Australia and in 36 states in America. In Seattle, children have to learn first aid skills before they can graduate from school, and it is also part of the driving licence requirement. More than half of the population in Seattle is now trained in emergency life support, so people are rarely more than 12 feet away from somebody who could save their life.
However, it is not enough to learn CPR. Michelle, a staff member at Rivington and Blackrod high school in my constituency, knew what to do when her dad had a cardiac arrest. She and others did CPR for a long time before the ambulance arrived far too late to make any difference. Had there been an automatic external defibrillator, they might have been able to shock his heart back into rhythm, but there was not. That is why I applaud the work of the Bolton implantable cardiac defibrillator support group, who work so hard to raise funds and have just donated their 67th defibrillator.
The chain of survival is just that—a chain of action that needs to be undertaken for a person to survive a cardiac arrest. It needs someone to call for help, someone to do CPR, a defibrillator and someone confident enough to use it, and an ambulance to take the person to hospital for treatment. That is why children need to learn how to do CPR and how to use a defibrillator.
The British Heart Foundation is giving Resusci Annies—the resuscitation dolls—to high schools and has produced a CD that teaches those skills in just half an hour, but we should be more ambitious. It is essential that we also teach children to deal with choking and bleeding and to put somebody in the recovery position. Nine out of ten 11 to 16-year-olds have been confronted with a medical emergency, often when no adults are around. Even when there are adults, it is often the child or young person who takes control and, for instance, delivers back blows to stop someone choking or deals with a serious bleed.
According to research by St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, only 7% of the UK population have the skills and the confidence to carry out basic first aid in an emergency, but 91% of pupils want to learn first aid at school; 98% of parents want first aid on the curriculum; and 96% of teachers think it is important for students to learn first aid. Ninety-five per cent of teachers agree that first aid teaching develops the general confidence and optimism of young people, yet only 21% of our schools equip young people with first aid skills.
I am enjoying the hon. Lady’s speech immensely; she is making a very powerful case. An argument against having CPR training in schools is that it would take up too much time, but surely what she is saying is that it would not require that much teaching time to get across to young people the skills that they need.
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. I will go on to say more about that in a moment, but let me reiterate the point now: if someone goes for half an hour’s training a year over their time in secondary school, we are talking about two and half hours. If they stay on, it is three and a half hours. If they go for an hour’s training, we are talking about five, six or seven hours. In terms of a school day, it is quicker than going on a cross-country run. We are talking about schools being able to take this skill into the national curriculum and to train people in it.
St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross believe that CPR and public access defibrillator training are important, but that other skills, such as the ability to deal with choking, bleeding and burns, and the ability to place somebody in the recovery position, must also be taught in schools. They believe that that could be done for just one hour a year, some of which could be delivered during an assembly. They, too, have provided free resources online for schools to use.
We still have Heartstart schools, where that range of skills is taught for two hours a year. It would take a tiny amount of the time that children are in school utterly to transform our society and have a nation of life savers. First aid provision also helps to meet Ofsted’s requirement on school safety and on the promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
We need to end the scenario in which, when somebody collapses or has a road traffic accident, we all stand around in a circle waiting for someone to act because we are too frightened to intervene. We need to end the fear of companies and organisations that are worried about the consequences of having a defibrillator. No one has ever been successfully sued for attempting to save someone’s life, and as one of my local firefighters said, “If someone’s heart has stopped, they are dead. You cannot make them any deader.”
Schools, companies, businesses and community groups should be far more worried about how they would feel if someone died when, if only they had invested in an AED and someone had known what to do, they could have saved them. Indeed, I believe that we should make AEDs compulsory, like fire extinguishers.
I cannot imagine anything worse than watching a loved one die and finding out that if only I had known what to do, they could have survived, so I have put my money where my mouth is. I have trained as a Heartstart tutor, so that I can teach people to do CPR and deal with choking and bleeding. My staff are Heartstart-trained and all the secondary schools in Bolton West have committed to or have become Heartstart schools.
I have worked closely with Sara Harris and the North West ambulance service to encourage the teaching of emergency life support skills and the roll-out of defibrillators. Sara works closely with the British Heart Foundation on its programmes. I have worked with Greater Manchester fire and rescue service, many of whose firefighters go into schools to teach life-saving skills. I have worked with Bolton Wanderers community trust, which is doing a great job in teaching life support skills and promoting defibrillators. I am working with Bolton implantable cardiac defibrillator support group, who are doing such an amazing job in raising money for defibrillators.
Recently, I have started to work with Lagan’s Foundation, which is a foundation that supports parents of children with heart disease and is also doing CPR training. I have campaigned with The Bolton News for every school leaver to be a life saver, and I have met with Ministers and shadow Ministers, and spoken on the subject many times in this place, including introducing a ten-minute rule Bill.
However, that is not enough, because every time there is a change of head teacher or the staff member responsible for emergency life support skills leaves, we have to start again. The only way to ensure that all children learn how to save a life is to put life-saving skills into the national curriculum. The only way to ensure that a defibrillator is available in our schools and other public buildings is to legislate for them to be a requirement. Since I started campaigning for that four years ago, I have heard some tragic and inspirational stories. I appeal to the Minister and to the shadow Minister to commit to introducing emergency life-saving skills to the national curriculum and, as a bare minimum, to ensuring that pupils know how to do CPR and how to use a defibrillator.
It is a pleasure both to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David, and to follow the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling). I am getting déjà vu; I think this is our fourth debate on this issue—it would be easy just to dust off our previous speeches. I have been supporting this campaign passionately, and I am delighted that next Wednesday, I will be turning up at the Minister’s office to have yet another push. It is a relentless campaign from us, and like “The Shawshank Redemption”, surely it would just be easier to agree with us.
As the hon. Lady said in her excellent speech, 30,000 people a year will have a serious cardiac arrest outside hospital, and disgracefully, only one in 12 can expect to survive. Ambulances take six to 12 minutes to arrive, and for every minute that passes in which immediate CPR is not given, the survival chance falls by 10%. If immediate CPR action is taken, the survival chance rises threefold. It is a great, crying shame that most people are simply not able to help or will walk by, not having the confidence to step in. In previous debates, we have heard horror stories of groups of people standing around and taking photographs, with nobody being willing to step forward. Therefore, it is perhaps no surprise that we have such a disgraceful survival rate of just one in 12.
We are all committed to trying to empower people with the skills and confidence to step in. As the hon. Lady so eloquently put it, frankly, anything is better than doing nothing. Someone cannot be deader than dead.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) on securing the debate and on her stirring words, and I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) on the speech that he is making. I have learned a lot not only from this debate and the campaigns that they have put forward, but from St John Ambulance and British Red Cross locally. They have taught me what more I need to do. Will he join me in congratulating them on their work across countless constituencies? Is there more that we can do to support their efforts in helping this important campaign?
I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent intervention. I think we would all join together in congratulating St John Ambulance on their brilliant work, not just in his constituency, but right across the country, and a number of organisations are desperate to step in and support the activities that we are pushing for in schools. This is a win-win for so many different people.
One reason why I am so passionate about this issue and have worked so closely with the hon. Member for Bolton West, a number of other MPs, and particularly, the British Heart Foundation—it has been fantastic in providing statistics and doing work that I will come back to—is that I found my father after a critical cardiac arrest. I was aged 12. I came into the shop where he had been collecting the money, and I kicked into autopilot. I probably was not particularly good, but it was better than nothing until passers-by came by. When we see the statistics, we are often blinded by the numbers, but I can personally vouch for just what happens when someone is in that situation.
Our aims are simple: we want people to recognise an emergency, to know that they should contact an ambulance immediately, and to administer CPR. Things have changed—it is not the kiss of life now. Simply by doing compressions in the right place, we can potentially keep people going for 15 minutes or even longer and give them a good chance of survival. We want people to use an automated defibrillator, and of course I support the campaigns to put them into as many public places as possible. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) has been tireless in raising that issue in debates and parliamentary questions.
We have pushed on this matter time and again. We had the e-petition with 100,000 signatures. We have had visits to Downing street. This is, I believe, our fourth debate. We have had parliamentary questions. We have had meetings and, as I said, there is another one in a week’s time. And we have responded; we have listened. The challenge is that people do not like to be prescriptive in the national curriculum. I understand that. I also understand that at one point there were 150 campaigns pushing for things to be in the national curriculum, and that when we asked for two hours in the curriculum, that was too much. We have gone away and turned that two hours into 30 minutes—the British Heart Foundation in particular has been fantastic on that point. A one-off 30-minute session can equip people with the skills to be life savers.
We are flexible. We are not proud. We do not mind whether the training takes place in biology or physical education lessons. It could take place during a school assembly. It could happen at the beginning or end of term. It could be given at any age. It could be part of citizenship education. We do not care, as long as there is a 30-minute window at some point during the school cycle. Even more impressively—this is for the Treasury—the British Heart Foundation has already purchased all the packs, so there would be no cost to the Exchequer, and each pack includes a DVD, so staff would not need extensive training. As long as they can put a DVD in, we will be well on the way.
The hon. Member for Bolton West reeled off statistics that showed how supportive of the idea teachers, children and parents are. Her statistics were even more favourable than mine, so I have put a big red line through mine in my notes. Importantly, we as politicians are not used to being popular, and this is an opportunity for us to garner huge support from teachers, children and parents.
We have to make this training compulsory. It needs to fit somewhere in a child’s education. We can create a generation of life savers. We have seen that, in countries such as Norway, survival rates reach as high as 50%. In this country, that would mean something like 5,000 more people surviving every year, because of a simple 30-minute gesture. We have a duty to create the next generation of life savers, and I hope that we seize that opportunity.
It is a privilege to speak under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) on securing this very important debate. She has spoken on this issue tirelessly during the past five years, and I am sure that she will continue to do so.
As my hon. Friend pointed out, there is currently no mandatory requirement of teaching about CPR—first aid—or public access defibrillators in the national curriculum in England. That is denying generations of young people the opportunity to develop life-saving skills that would benefit everyone. Today, however, I want to speak specifically about how the lack of CPR training and readily available defibrillators in schools and public places is preventing sufferers of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, known as SADS, from having the best chance of survival. SADS is the term used to describe heart conditions that can suddenly affect seemingly healthy young people. It affects people between the ages of 12 and 35, and Government statistics show that it causes the deaths of about 12 young people a week. However, the true figure is believed to be higher, because the condition is often misdiagnosed. Each of those deaths is a personal tragedy. In my own constituency, in February 2013, Philip Lamin suffered a fatal cardiac arrest while playing football after school with his friends. He was 16. It was following that terrible event that I first met Juliet Lamin, Philip’s mother, who despite her terrible loss—Philip was her only child—has campaigned tirelessly to raise funds so that there are defibrillators in every local school. Although we cannot say for certain that the presence of a defibrillator would have saved Philip’s life, statistics suggest that it would have hugely increased his chances of survival. I want to take this opportunity to commend Ms Lamin, who is listening to the debate, and the young people she works with for keeping this issue at the front of people’s minds and raising awareness. Her relentless commitment and dedication are amazing. She is an inspiration.
A number of organisations, including the British Heart Foundation, the British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and SADS UK, have highlighted how defibrillation, along with CPR, forms a crucial part of the chain of survival following a SADS attack or out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Last year I, like many of us, met the Oliver King Foundation, which is calling for the introduction of legislation to make it compulsory for defibrillators to be placed in all public buildings, including schools and sports centres, to help prevent the deaths of many young people from SADS. At that time, the Oliver King Foundation had done excellent work in placing more than 450 defibrillators in public places across the country. Reportedly, those defibrillators have already started saving lives.
It is important to have defibrillators available, but it is clear that their presence alone is not enough. Evidence suggests that a defibrillator is less likely to be effective if CPR has not been carried out before it arrives. However, the lack of training and uncertainty about what to do mean that, as we have heard, bystanders are reluctant to get involved even if there is a defibrillator at the scene. Many people say that even if it was for a loved one, they would be reluctant to get involved because they would not know what to do. Teaching people CPR and defibrillator awareness in secondary schools would alleviate that fear. Young people would leave school with knowledge that could save a friend, a loved one or a stranger.
The Government’s cardiovascular disease outcomes strategy, published in March 2013, recognised the need to improve out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates and sought to increase the number of people trained in CPR and defibrillator use. In April 2014, the Department for Education published guidance for schools on supporting pupils with medical conditions. It encouraged schools to consider purchasing a defibrillator and stated that staff members trained in CPR
“may wish to promote these techniques more widely”.
It also recognised the importance of training to the confidence of bystanders. However, those were suggestions, not mandatory requirements.
Helping schools to purchase defibrillators is not enough when teachers and students are not confident enough to use them. At present, although some schools may choose to cover basic first aid as part of their wider curriculum, others are free to ignore it completely. There is a lack of consistency in the provision of that teaching, because if a member of staff who champions first aid leaves the school, there is no obligation to continue their good work. That means that first aid may be taught one year and not the next, which implies that it is not a serious subject. Surely the Government’s next logical step should be to make CPR and defibrillator awareness a mandatory part of the national curriculum, because every week people are dying when simple CPR training, combined with the ready availability of defibrillators, could help them to survive. Both need to be offered to ensure the maximum chance of survival.
Making CPR and defibrillator awareness part of the school curriculum is widely supported by organisations, and polling of parents and teachers has shown that they support it, too. It cannot be right that people such as Juliet Lamin and Philip’s young friends have to go from school to school and youth club to youth club to raise awareness when it is us, the legislators, here in this place who can change the law to make it happen. I urge the Minister to take on board all the comments that have been made today and to take affirmative action to ensure that CPR and defibrillator awareness are a mandatory part of the national curriculum for the benefit of us all.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) on securing the debate. It is a pleasure to be here today. We have followed this debate and issue for quite some time. Defibrillators have been popping up around village halls, swimming pools, leisure centres and gyms across the whole of the South Derbyshire constituency very much as a charitable, volunteer arrangement. Similarly, when the British Heart Foundation really kicked on with this campaign and made the offer of kit to schools, I, as a good constituency MP, wrote to all my local schools and colleges about having the equipment put in, and I am delighted to say that the William Allitt school, High Grange school, the Pingle school, Foremarke school and Granville sports college took up that offer. I have been into the Pingle school and been with the children as they were having one of their lessons, pumping up and down on the dummy. Obviously, people can imagine which face I was imagining as I was doing that—there are people we want to keep and people we perhaps do not want to keep—but it was a pleasure to be there with those children. Would the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown) like to intervene?
The hon. Gentleman was just wondering who I was thinking of. That is fine.
What I find fascinating is that there is no pushback—no pun intended—from the children. The children want to do this training.
Again, as an MP campaigning about issues that are important to people in South Derbyshire, I have written to my hon. Friend the Minister and we have spoken about this issue. Our local St John Ambulance is keen on it, the children are keen on it and the schools are proud of what they are doing. Village hall committees are helping to organise the defibrillators in their areas. There is support from county councillors, such as Linda Chilton in the Melbourne area, which helped to pay for one of the defibrillators. There is a huge groundswell of support. I genuinely believe that the time is right for Ministers to accept that it is a good idea, and to accept that there is an opportunity, perhaps after May, to put such skills on the curriculum. We are rolling out citizenship classes and making sure that older children understand the importance of politics and democracy. Only one thing is more important than politics and democracy, and that is living and breathing. I hope that the Minister takes on board all the comments from everybody in the Chamber, and I again congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West on ensuring that the debate is alive and kicking today.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), who secured the debate, and the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler). The numbers that have been outlined during the debate speak for themselves. More than 30,000 cardiac arrests occur out of hospital each year, and less than one in 10 people survive. That statistic should worry us all as MPs with constituents, and as members of families and communities where such deaths regularly occur year in, year out. Those statistics mean that, if I were to have a cardiac arrest outside hospital now, my chances of being able to go home and see my family tonight would be minimal.
That does not have to be the case. In places around the world such as Seattle, parts of Holland and parts of Norway, survival rates can reach 25%, which means that a quarter of people who have out-of-hospital cardiac arrests make it home to see their loved ones. If we matched the survival rates achieved in parts of Norway, we would save 5,000 lives a year. That is 5,000 families still together; 5,000 mothers, fathers and children together would see the benefits of such changes.
I am proud to be the chair of the all-party group on heart disease, and I have worked with the British Heart Foundation and colleagues in Parliament to push the case that life-saving skills are essential for young people and society, and that they should not be optional. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the British Heart Foundation, which provides the secretariat to our all-party group: chief executive Simon Gillespie, policy director Mike Hobday, Maura Gillespie, Rachel Almeida, John Howard and Susannah Kerr. The BHF has done great work on genetics, on the impact of sugars, salts and fats on heart disease, on plain packaging, on exercise and on defibrillators. The CPR campaign is one of its most important campaigns because it is, quite literally, life saving.
I will provide two examples from right here in Parliament. Bob Sheldon, an ex-MP who is now Lord Sheldon, died outside Parliament about 15 years ago. Duncan Goodhew, the swimmer, was walking past and saw it happen, and he brought Bob back to life. Paul Keetch, a former Liberal Democrat MP, was flying from England to New York, and he died over Northern Ireland. He was lucky—I have to make sure I get this the right way around—to be flying on a Virgin Atlantic plane, which had a defibrillator. The defibrillator was used and he was saved. If he had been in a British Airways aeroplane, he would not have been brought back and would not have survived. I apologise if I have got that the wrong way around.
The incident involving young Samantha Hobbs has already been relayed. I met Samantha and her mother in Portcullis House when Samantha gave us a lesson about how she saved her mum. It was absolutely lovely to see mother and daughter still bonded with each other because of Samantha’s skills. The BHF campaign is a great way to get the message across to the public: it tells us to pump the heart to the rhythm of “Stayin’ Alive”:
“Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive”.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will, as long as my hon. Friend does not ask me to sing a duet with her.
Those of us who are more musically challenged can do it to “Nellie the Elephant”.
For those who are not impressed by the examples I have given of people being saved—the mother and daughter, Bob Sheldon and Paul Keetch—in cold-hearted actuarial terms, the insurance industry reckons that every person who dies prematurely costs the country £1 million in lost taxes, lost education and lost life. If we prevent 5,000 people from dying prematurely from heart disease every year, the country will save £5 billion. Over the next 10 years, the saving would be £50 billion. It makes economic sense, but most of all, it makes health sense to introduce lessons about CPR.
Charities such as the British Heart Foundation are doing their part. To date, 930 secondary schools across the country, plus two community groups in my constituency, have signed up to help build a nation of life savers. As has been mentioned, the BHF is providing kits free of charge to schools and clubs. The charity is doing its bit, and it is time for the Government to meet it halfway and help to deliver CPR and public access defibrillator awareness across the four nations. The BHF’s innovative “Call Push Rescue” training scheme teaches CPR and PAD awareness in less than 30 minutes. It takes just 30 minutes to save a life.
Will CPR awareness sessions affect our children’s maths and English? Will they reduce our children’s skills? Will they adversely affect our children’s standard assessment tests, their GCSEs or their A-levels? Such training can be slotted into the curriculum in many different ways, as has been said. For example, it could be taught in biology lessons or—my favourite option—in PE lessons. The good thing about CPR is that it can be taught anywhere in the school curriculum, and it must be possible to find 30 minutes somewhere in that curriculum.
Since the meeting that my hon. Friend and I attended last week, I have made inquiries about what is being done in Scotland. The curriculum in Scotland contains carers modules, and I am led to believe, although I still need confirmation on this, that CPR could well form part of such modules. That should not simply happen in one place; it should be rolled out across the whole of the UK.
I totally concur with my hon. Friend, and I am glad that he has made investigations about the scene in Scotland. Nineteen MPs have attended this debate, and dozens of others have signed early-day motions, spoken in other debates and tabled parliamentary questions. Heart disease is the biggest killer in the country, and any political party that gets on top of the matter will be given political credit for it. It is a non-party political issue, however, and it is great to see hon. Members from across the House and across the United Kingdom here supporting the call for CPR and PAD. I hope that we will use our position in Parliament to influence our Front-Bench team, our Back-Bench team and our manifestos. I also hope that we will use our position as local leaders in our constituencies to influence schools and health authorities to ensure that the important issue of CPR and PAD is raised locally in our communities and nationally.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) on securing this incredibly important debate.
I start my speech with a confession. When I first encountered the idea of putting CPR and life-saving skills on the curriculum in the early days of this Parliament, I was sceptical about it. Unfortunately, I did as the Whips keep telling me not to do and looked a little further into the matter. I dug a little further and looked at some information, and two things convinced me: the statistics and the evidence from abroad. I was also influenced by the fact that I have the pleasure of occupying an office that is two doors away from that of my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), and it was unlikely that I would get away with holding a view contrary to his for long.
The statistics speak for themselves, and we have heard some of them this afternoon. There are some 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year. Survival across the UK is poor and highly variable, with survival rates of between 2% and 12%. Where ventricular defibrillation takes place, survival rates are slightly higher, but fewer than one in five people survive. Half of cardiac arrests are witnessed by bystanders, but too few people have the knowledge of CPR to make the difference between life and death.
One of the most shocking statistics, and one that prompted my interest in this issue, is that 12 children under the age of 18, and many more adults, die in the UK each week from cardiac arrest. As somebody involved in youth sport, I felt passionate about making sure I got a better understanding of how this issue affects our youngsters. We automatically think they are healthy because they are young, but as we have seen from examples such as that of Fabrice Muamba, the fittest person can suffer a cardiac arrest.
For every minute that passes without defibrillation, a victim’s chances of survival decrease by between 10% and 12%. A simple calculation shows that a victim is likely to have the maximum chance of survival up to between eight and 10 minutes after the cardiac arrest occurs. With a current ambulance target response time of eight minutes, time is of the essence, so acting quickly and using the appropriate therapy are essential.
If the statistics do not speak for themselves, let us look at the international evidence. This country lags quite far behind on teaching youngsters and adults CPR and life-saving skills. In the US, 36 states have passed legislation to make sure youngsters learn emergency skills. If an emergency ambulance is called, and immediate bystander CPR is used, followed by early defibrillation, survival rates following cardiac arrest in those 36 states can exceed 50%. In Seattle, CPR has been taught in school PE lessons for more than 30 years, and survival rates have increased by 52%. It is also on the curriculum in France, Denmark and Norway, where survival rates have also increased.
In stark contrast, the UK has incredibly poor rates. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon made clear, however, the British Heart Foundation’s campaign to teach these skills has been well thought through, and it is now being rolled out in many guises, using DVDs and other equipment. We can no longer simply say there is too much pressure on the timetable.
After the hon. Member for Bolton West mentioned some statistics, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon crossed his out, but they are the ones I want to use. Some 86% of teachers think emergency life support should be part of the curriculum, 78% of children want to be taught how to save someone’s life in an emergency and 70% of parents think children should be taught ELS at school. That would take as little as 0.2% of the school year, so by taking just two hours from their entire school life, children can learn to save a life.
The teaching does not have to be prescriptive, contrary to what I originally thought—hence my early scepticism. It can be really flexible; as the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) said, we can teach essential life-saving skills in PE, biology or assembly. There are so many different ways we can teach them to children.
I want briefly to mention the campaign I have been running in my constituency. Inspired by a better knowledge of the statistics, and taking a lead from my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), I have been trying to ensure there is as much access as possible to defibrillators across my constituency. The campaign has been incredibly good in terms of not only ensuring that we have this life-saving equipment, but bringing people in communities together.
We now have five defibs in schools across my constituency. At one secondary school, the opening ceremony was done by the mum of a boy who goes to the school. He has a heart defect, and she came up to me afterwards and said, “Every day, I said goodbye to my son when he went to school, and I wasn’t sure whether he would come home that evening. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I feel a little safer now, knowing that this equipment is on site.”
We have defibs at Aylesford rugby club and Snodland football club and in two of the three remote villages in my constituency. The defib coming to Larkfield is being supported—finally—by Tesco. To start with, the company had misplaced concerns about liability, but we managed to reassure it that the defib will cause no liability issues. Other defibs are coming to other parts of the constituency.
The campaign has been assisted by Georgina, my assistant in the constituency. She ran a marathon to raise funds for defibs in her town—Snodland—and the village of Burham. I want to use this opportunity to thank all the fundraisers from the schools, the scouts and the guides, as well as councillors, Georgina and the businesses that have supported us. Last but not least, I want to mention the people at Cardiac Science, who have supported us every step of the way. They were kind enough to tell Georgina that if she passed the finish line—no matter what her time or how much she raised—they would give her another defib. She managed to raise enough money for two defibs, and Cardiac Science gave her the third for free. That has been absolutely fantastic.
The campaign has been incredibly popular across the area, but I have also learned some lessons from it, and those have come later in the campaign. I targeted schools—they are all secondary schools—with big sports communities. They open their facilities at the weekends, and they are also often open in the evenings for adult learning, so we naturally put the defibs there—the only problem is that there is no access to the defibrillators when they are closed. As we have progressed with the campaign, therefore, we have made sure that the latest defibs are in locked, secure boxes and that people can now ring the ambulance, get the code and get access to the community defib.
If I am re-elected in May, I will carry on trying to get as many defibs as possible across the constituency, because there are simply not enough. I also want to raise enough funds to move the defibs from the inside to the outside of schools so that they are available to the whole community.
It is wonderful to hear about the number of defibrillators around my hon. Friend’s constituency and about people’s access to them. My constituent Sean Doyle collapsed with a heart attack at Greenhead park on the edge of my constituency. He was fortunate that three doctors were running by that morning and saved his life. He has raised funds for a defibrillator, which is now in the park. Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that the nub of the debate is making sure that people know how to use defibrillators and have the confidence to make a quick decision to save someone’s life? I hope we will get a response from the Minister about people getting training in schools.
People do not actually need training to use the modern defibs, which “talk” to people and tell them exactly what to do. They will not administer a shock if it is not required. They walk people through the entire process, which is why I feel comfortable about the number of defibs we are getting across my constituency.
To conclude, I would like to think that every child leaving primary school had the basic skills to put someone—whether an adult or a child—in the recovery position and to call for help. That is not asking too much of our teachers or of children’s time in primary school. I would also like to think that, by the time children left secondary school, they had the confidence to use a defib and to do CPR. That is down to basic training, but that training could save a life. That is all that we, as legislators, should focus on. These proposals are not opposed by educationalists or teachers, and parents and children want them. They would be a real asset to our wider community.
It is a pleasure to contribute to the debate, and I thank the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) for her passionate introduction and for setting the scene.
I doubt whether there is anyone present who has not heard me talking about the beauty, character and innovation to be found in Northern Ireland. We have much to offer the world, and it is a Northern Ireland innovation that has made it possible for us to be having today’s debate. The modern defibrillator was created by a man called Dr Frank Pantridge, who has aptly been called the father of emergency medication. Frank was an Ulster Scot, hailing from just outside my constituency at Hillsborough, within the county that I serve—yet more proof that the best always hails from Ulster. It is always a pleasure to come and say that.
I think most hon. Members will have caught sight of medical dramas on television where a patient goes into V-tach and the doctor shouts for the crash cart and jumps the heart into action. One small box has the ability to completely change a patient’s life and that of the people around them; that is how vital it is. Whenever someone suffers a cardiac arrest, early intervention and resuscitation are essential to improve the outcome, as other Members have said. That is why it is crucial that defibrillators should be available, and that people should be trained to use them. Training need not be terribly intensive, but it must help people who are unsure. There is a way of talking people through the process.
I want to provide a Northern Ireland perspective, because I think the Minister and other hon. Members will be pleased to hear about some of the things that we have done across the water. The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), who has just left the Chamber, mentioned that 19 Members from around the United Kingdom were in the Chamber. My local council, Ards borough council—soon to be North Down and Ards district council—has informed me that the life of a gentleman who was swimming at the pool was saved, after the call went out and someone came running with a defibrillator and used it appropriately. The outcome would have been very different had the machine not been available, but it was, and it saved his life. Indeed, that has happened on many occasions. Such events are not limited to TV medical dramas. They happen in real life, and defibrillators, used correctly, save lives.
In Northern Ireland, we have a campaign called Defibs4Kids, with the aim of putting defibrillators into schools. At the start, about 30 schools in Northern Ireland had defibrillators, but as of June last year the number had risen to 170, and it is still rising. There is a map online showing the schools that have defibrillators, and my colleague the Health Minister in Northern Ireland is overseeing that initiative. I know that the matter is devolved, but perhaps other Departments may need to be involved to enable the initiative to progress. The next phase of Defibs4Kids concerns the mapping of defibrillators in local and central Government Departments and agencies, to be followed by businesses and community defibrillators, including first responder schemes.
About a month ago in my constituency, a new first responders scheme was launched in the Ards peninsula and Kircubbin. It took nearly three years to get that scheme going, because it was a Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety issue, but it happened through working with the community. The hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch)—I hope I can call her a friend as well—visited my constituency to attend that event. She has seen what the scheme does, the people who were trained, and the enthusiasm and energy that made the project happen. That is good news.
I am informed that each year in Northern Ireland, approximately 1,400 cardiac arrests occur outside a hospital environment. Fewer than 10% of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive to be discharged from hospital. Indeed, each year in the UK about 30,000 people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. For every minute that passes in cardiac arrest before defibrillation, outside a hospital setting, the chances of survival are reduced by 10%.
The Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association has stated that it supports the provision of lifesaving equipment in the community, but it does not itself provide emergency aid training or equipment. However, it encourages sporting organisations to raise funds to buy equipment such as defibrillators, and can suggest suppliers of the equipment and associated training services. Just two weeks ago, Rosemount Rec football club in Greyabbey took delivery of a defibrillator, and members have been trained to use it. It is available for every football match—home and away, wherever they may be. It was good to see how the club did that. The NICHSA also encourages clubs to set aside money to give staff initial and recurring training in using the equipment. It is simple to use, and individuals who have not been trained can still use it, but it is sensible to provide training.
I have been contacted by many community groups in my area that had saved for a defibrillator and needed training. I have had inquiries about defibrillators from churches, and I have even liaised with Asda—I am not trying to promote it above any other supermarket, but there is an Asda at the shopping centre. It has a defibrillator in every one of its locations in Northern Ireland. That is all part of the work that has been done to make defibrillators available.
There was another event the week before last, along with that at Rosemount Rec football club, at Greyabbey Presbyterian church, which had raised money for a defibrillator. The congregation, along with the community association, want to make another first responders defibrillator available in Greyabbey, in the Ards peninsula. Those people are volunteers. Thankfully, defibrillators are becoming more available; the issue now is to see that people are trained in their use. Of course, the best place to start is in school, so we are pursuing that strategy.
It is clear that groups, clubs and organisations take the issue seriously. The question is whether the Department of Health takes it seriously enough. The Minister replying to the debate is in the Department for Education, but in Northern Ireland it is a Department of Health issue. When we hear of young footballers and rugby players dropping dead on the pitch, or active, healthy people having a heart attack at the swimming pool, it brings home what we need to do. Is it really fair to put the onus entirely on a group or organisation to have the equipment and training on hand, or could and should the Government help?
I believe that aid and training can and should be provided, and I await the Minister’s response, bearing in mind that the matter is devolved to Northern Ireland. I fully support what other hon. Members have said today, and the outline strategy is for defibrillators to be available in schools and other community places, and for help to be provided for those who want to be prepared if the unimaginable happens.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) on securing this important debate.
We have heard an awful lot of statistics and numbers this afternoon, and I do not intend to dwell on those. I will focus more on a personal case from my constituency—the story of young Sam Mangoro, who was a 16-year-old pupil at Mountbatten school in Romsey. Almost exactly a year ago he suffered a heart attack and collapsed. His heart stopped beating during a PE lesson. We heard the stat that fewer than one in 10 who have a heart attack outside hospital are likely to survive, but Sam was one of the lucky ones. His PE lesson was being led by a teacher who was there for an interview—she was not even on the full-time staff. He collapsed, and she had had training.
Enormous credit is due to Mountbatten school, because it was one of the few schools in my constituency that had a defibrillator, which it had purchased some months previously. I will not say that that happened by chance; the chair of the governors had had a conversation with her son-in-law, who was a doctor for the air ambulance. He had explained to her in great detail why it was so important to have defibrillators in public places where young people might play sport—because every minute counted. As a result of that conversation the school purchased its first defibrillator, and on 6 March 2014 Sam Mangoro’s life was saved because the school had staff trained in CPR and a defibrillator on the premises.
The excellent news is that the whole Mountbatten school community has now embraced the need for CPR training, and two more defibrillators have been purchased. As might be expected in a large rural constituency, the school is on quite a large site, and the view was taken that three defibrillators were needed to provide sufficient coverage and make one of them easily reachable anywhere on the campus should a child collapse. Mountbatten school has led the way in Romsey, and Sam’s story was a wake-up call for many other schools in the area. I do not say that it is commonplace, but it is not uncommon for schools in the constituency to have defibrillators. There is a great deal of awareness of the issue. I agree with the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) that first responders and similar groups are now more likely to have defibrillators. Defibrillators can be seen outside village pubs and community halls around my constituency. Mountbatten school has become one of the British Heart Foundation’s “nation of life savers” schools.
Alongside access to defibrillators, there has to be training. Modern defibrillators talk people through the process, and I have used a defibrillator that the Oliver King Foundation demonstrated to us in this place. I know how straightforward it is, but the issue of confidence still remains. It is easiest to imbue confidence into people when they are young. We have heard that school pupils wish to learn CPR and, unlike those of us who could be described as middle-aged, they have no hesitation or trepidation; they get stuck straight in. We therefore have an important opportunity.
I am a member of the Select Committee on Education, and on 17 February we published a report calling for personal, social, health and economic education to be a statutory part of the curriculum. Many hon. Members have pitched to the Minister this afternoon the idea that CPR should be taught as part of physical education, biology or, perhaps, citizenship, but I will of course make the pitch that CPR should be part of PSHE. I cannot think of a more obvious place in the curriculum for CPR. Of course, PSHE is not currently mandatory or statutory, and I have consistently called for it to be a statutory part of our curriculum, as I firmly believe it should be. If we take that step, CPR should be a mandatory element of PSHE.
Last year, I spent a mere half an hour with St John Ambulance in Romsey, and it reminded me of some basic CPR training that I received a very long time ago when I was a member of the Brownies. I am proud to have gained my Brownie first aid badge when I was about nine or 10, and CPR has not changed radically. Way back in the 1980s we were not doing CPR to the tune of “Stayin’ Alive,” but St John Ambulance is keen to emphasise that that is the rhythm that people have to deploy—it is really straightforward. St John Ambulance also showed me again how to use the automatic defibrillators. My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) is correct that CPR can be taught very quickly—30 minutes is all it takes—and I urge the Minister, first, to consider the Education Committee’s plea that PSHE is made a statutory part of the curriculum and, secondly, that PSHE is the right place for CPR.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) on securing the debate. She has been assiduous in ensuring that the rest of us are held to account on the issue, about which she feels very strongly.
It is surprising that, after the debate in the Chamber on 22 November 2012, the issue remains unresolved and that we find ourselves back here discussing largely the same matters. On that occasion, the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), then children’s Minister, was positively effusive in her support for this idea, yet here we are in the dying days of the Parliament and we do not appear to be much further forward. As my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) has said, there is no requirement to teach life-saving skills in our schools. In some schools, children learn about automatic external defibrillators or CPR, but the Government, as far as I am aware, have no settled policy on the issue. The Minister might be able to help us on that point.
In December 2014, the Minister for Schools was almost as effusive as the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk, and perhaps even more so. He became the first Education Minister to back adding first aid to the curriculum when he said that it should be a compulsory part of personal, social, health and economic education, or PSHE, lessons. I understand that the Government’s cardiovascular disease outcomes strategy recognises the need to improve out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates and promotes an increase in the number of people trained in CPR and in the number of public access defibrillators. What steps are the Government taking to increase the number of people with such training, as part of their strategy? Schools seem an obvious place to start if we want to increase the numbers, and teacher training courses are another place where it might make sense to try to increase training. I would be grateful if the Minister shed light on how the strategy is being implemented, because that might go some way to addressing some of the issues raised today.
When the Secretary of State for Education was last asked about the issue in a parliamentary question, the best she could offer was that the Department of Health was
“helping schools to procure defibrillators at a reduced price.”—[Official Report, 2 March 2015; Vol. 593, c. 672.]
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said that there is often difficulty between Departments, and I take that point, but what we are doing in schools requires more than the Secretary of State to tell us that the Department of Health has a policy to help to get some cut-price defibrillators.
The first responders organisation on the Ards peninsula, where I live and which I represent, has managed to buy half a dozen defibrillators at a reduced price. The organisation has obviously negotiated that price and made defibrillators more financially available.
Most people would agree with anything that could be done to make the equipment available at reduced cost.
As I understand it, the Department for Education non-statutory guidance encourages schools to consider purchasing a defibrillator as part of their first aid stock, and the guidance also suggests that staff members who are already appointed as first aiders might wish to promote first aid techniques more widely in the school among teachers and pupils. That is the end of my pre-election knockabout, because I recognise that the bulk of the debate has been relatively consensual. I will not pursue the Minister any further.
Like others, I recognise that every year some 150,000 people die in situations in which first aid could have made a difference. According to the British Heart Foundation, more than 30,000 people suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK each year. Some hon. Members said that fewer than one in 12 survive, but my researcher told me that the figure is fewer than one in 10—we know that not enough people survive. As the hon. Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) reminded us, this is not about statistics; it is about real-life experiences that people may or may not survive. It is important to bear that in mind, and we are clearly behind other countries in teaching CPR to young people.
According to the Red Cross, only about 20% of our secondary school students learn first aid skills in the classroom, and it is estimated that less than 13% of pupils access some sort of CPR training at school. If we ensured that school leavers were capable and confident in performing CPR, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West said, an estimated 5,000 lives could be saved each year.
Arguably, we are behind many of our European counterparts; countries such as France, Denmark and Norway all make life-saving skills such as CPR a mandatory part of their school curriculums. For many years, they have used strategies ranging from self-learning with DVDs and mannequins to structured teaching, which is exactly the model that Members have discussed today.
Further afield, a recent statement by the American Heart Association concluded that CPR training should be required for graduation from secondary school. I was told that 20 states have introduced such a requirement, but I note that two Members have said that the number is 36, so I bow to their superior research. I understand that most US schools use a CPR training kit that trains 10 to 20 students at a time and takes 30 minutes, which is not dissimilar from the approach recommended by the British Heart Foundation and mentioned in the debate by several hon. Members.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) said, international evidence suggests a substantial decrease in deaths associated with cardiac problems in countries where CPR training is mandatory in schools. In Norway, for example, survival rates are 25% better than our own for individual cases of cardiac arrest. To compare the international story to our own, as I have said and others have repeated, only 20% of our students leave school having learned first aid, so we can see the scale of the problem facing us.
As was mentioned earlier, when asked in a recent survey, almost all secondary school students stated that they would want to help a friend or family member needing emergency first aid, but 94% said that they needed further training before they would feel capable of doing so. A further half of secondary school students admitted to feeling nervous and panicking in such situations. The issue is further exacerbated; a British Heart Foundation survey found that barely a third of respondents would know how to perform CPR on a friend or family member. That is worrying when we consider the number of people at risk.
As I understand it—other Members here may be better informed than me—it is likely that CPR training would be confined to the secondary sector, as young primary-aged children frequently lack the physical strength to carry out CPR on adults. In their case, training would probably involve general awareness, maybe about the appropriateness of dialling 999 or putting someone into the recovery position, as the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) said. It seems to me that it would not exactly be a daunting task to teach that to primary school children; the British Heart Foundation claims that its training takes about 30 minutes. The hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes) reminded us that the Select Committee on Education recommended in its recent report “Life Lessons” that PHSE should be compulsory in schools.
I will conclude by summarising the Labour position. We are committed to ensuring that life-saving skills are taught in all our schools, and we are happy to talk to schools and teachers about the best way to ensure that that happens. As we heard earlier from the hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North, some people think that this should be part of PSHE while others suggest that it should be included in the physical education curriculum. There is some debate. The PSHE Association wants a programme of study that includes emergency life-saving skills.
Schools might also use organisations such as the Red Cross, St John Ambulance, the Royal Life Saving Society or others to provide relevant resources and training. As we have heard in the debate from a variety of Members, several local organisations and campaigns could be utilised to that end. The hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford described the arrangements in her area to supply equipment, which showed what a community effort it can be. The hon. Member for Strangford told an encouraging story about what progress can be made, but he also served to remind us that, at times, Departments can be good at getting in the way. If ever there were a case for joined-up government, it is on issues such as this.
What matters more than anything is that we stop discussing and start doing. Under Labour, life-saving skills, including CPR where age-appropriate, will be taught in all schools.
That is the third education policy announced by the Opposition during this Parliament; I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe). It is a pity that he does not have a few more to put to the electorate in two months’ time. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David; it is the parliamentary assessment board all over again. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) on securing the debate.
There is nothing more important than keeping children, and indeed the staff who teach them, safe in our schools. This Government have already done a great deal to ensure that defibrillators are more widely available in schools. In answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak, we have encouraged all schools to consider purchasing automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, as part of their first aid equipment. We refer to that in the new statutory guidance on supporting pupils with medical conditions at school.
In November last year, we launched new arrangements to help schools to purchase high-quality AEDs at a significantly reduced price. To make that as easy as possible, we also produced a guide, “Automated external defibrillators (AEDs): A guide for maintained schools and academies”, covering the issues that schools might wish to consider when purchasing an AED, including location, maintenance and access to training. It was developed in collaboration with NHS ambulance services and other specialists, including Dr Andy Lockey of the Resuscitation Council, who was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bolton West. I am pleased to confirm that as of 6 March, 227 confirmed orders under the scheme had been placed, for a total of 291 AEDs.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Heather Wheeler) touched on the important role that AEDs can play in communities. Many schools view a community-access AED as a tangible contribution that they can make to their community. The AED guide suggests that schools might wish to consider community access where such a solution also meets the needs of staff members.
Access to an AED is only part of the story. Every second is important when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, and first aid skills are vital to ensuring that help is available when it is most needed, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) pointed out from his own experience when his father had a cardiac arrest. I see why he is so passionate about the issue; he is an indefatigable campaigner on it, as he is on other life skills in the curriculum.
Therefore, the guide is clear about the importance of defibrillation and of CPR in the chain of survival. Schools will already have first aiders trained in CPR, but there is no reason they cannot use the purchase of an AED as an impetus to promote knowledge of those skills more widely within the school community; indeed, the Department for Education’s guide suggests that schools do that, and we hope that many of them will choose to do so.
The hon. Member for Bolton West made a powerful case that we should go further, persuasively arguing for CPR and life-saving skills to be included in the national curriculum. Similarly powerful speeches were made by my hon. Friends the Members for North Swindon, for South Derbyshire, for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), and for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes). I listened carefully to the story of the PE teacher attending an interview at Mountbatten school and all I can say is that I hope to goodness that they were given the job of PE teacher at that school.
If not, I am sure that he or she has been snapped up elsewhere.
We heard powerful speeches from the hon. Members for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) and for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane); I am sure the latter will receive a letter from either Willie Walsh or Richard Branson, depending on which airline did not have a defibrillator. There was also a powerful speech from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon).
I recognise that the intention of the hon. Member for Bolton West is to ensure that more people have the knowledge and skills that could prove so valuable in assisting a child, teacher or someone visiting a school who suffers a cardiac arrest. However, whether teaching such knowledge and skills should be an addition to the national curriculum is another question.
The new national curriculum, which came into force in September 2014, represents a clear step forward for schools. It will ensure that all children have the opportunity to acquire the essential knowledge in key academic and non-academic subjects. However, I am afraid that it has now become somewhat routine for Education Ministers to come to such debates to make the case against the inclusion of a particular new requirement in the national curriculum. Proposals such as this are often supported by a persuasive argument, but their sheer number means that we need to start from a position of caution when addressing them.
The national curriculum creates a minimum expectation for the content of curriculums in maintained schools. Quite deliberately, it does not represent everything that a school should teach. Also, schools do not have a monopoly on the provision of education to children; parents and voluntary groups outside school also play an important role.
Many schools choose to include CPR and defibrillator awareness as part of their PSHE teaching. In the introduction to the new national curriculum, we have highlighted the expectation that PSHE should be taught, and improving the quality of PSHE teaching is a priority of this Government. However, we do not want to prescribe exactly which issues schools should have to cover in PSHE or other related parts of what we would call the school curriculum, as opposed to the national curriculum.
Prescribing a long list of specific content to be covered could be unproductive, leading to a tick-box approach that did not properly address the most important issues. Nor would it ensure that schools addressed those matters that were most relevant to their pupils. Indeed, we should trust schools to provide the right education for their pupils, within the overall framework of the national curriculum.
I had some optimism at the start of the Minister’s speech, but I have come back to a state of depression after listening to what he has had to say. He is talking about a list of issues that come to him, but how many of them could save 150,000 lives a year and how many would combine a range of issues including citizenship and boosting confidence? I ask him to consider the fact that this subject potentially has a special, indeed unique, position in our national curriculum.
I am not arguing against the inclusion of CPR in a school’s teaching curriculum; I am arguing about whether teaching these things should be statutory. There is more than one way to achieve an objective.
Also, if we look at the list of issues that people argue should be included for consideration in the national curriculum, we see that many of them would save a significant number of lives each year: relationships; drugs and alcohol; emotional and mental health, and well-being; emergency life support skills; homelessness; forced marriage; violence; transgender issues; tobacco; animal welfare; bullying; gambling; gender equality; cancer; symptoms of brain tumours in young people; fire and road safety; body image; the UN declaration on the rights of the child; environment; the dangers of carbon monoxide; cooking; media literacy; knife crime; parenting; chess; and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Those are all specific cases where Governments, including the previous Government, have been lobbied over the years for things to be included in the national curriculum. It would be easy for any Minister—Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat—to say yes to those issues, only to find that there was little time in the national curriculum for the core academic subjects that we want children to learn. However, that does not mean that we do not think those other things should be taught in schools.
CPR is included in the non-statutory PSHE programme of study produced by the PSHE Association, which should please my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North. That suggested programme of study, which was produced by some of the leading experts in PSHE teaching, includes teaching young people how to recognise and follow health and safety procedures and ways to reduce risk and minimise harm in risky situations, and how to use emergency and basic first aid. Many schools also make use of organisations such as the Red Cross and St John Ambulance to provide information to young people about first aid and dealing with emergencies.
The British Heart Foundation has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members. It has offered to provide free CPR training kits to every secondary school in the country, allowing young people to gain first-hand experience of that important life-saving skill. The training kit covers how and when to perform CPR on an adult or child; how and when to put someone in the recovery position, which was referred to in the debate; and how and when to use a public access defibrillator. It contains an educational DVD demonstrating how to carry out CPR while trainees join in by using mannequins, so that no instructor is needed. The kit includes 35 mannequins, enabling every pupil in a class to learn CPR together.
We will work with the British Heart Foundation to promote that kit to schools. Indeed, the DFE is notifying all schools of the foundation’s “Call, Push, Rescue” kit in the next all-school termly e-mail, and we will continue to work with the foundation to promote its resources, as well as those provided by St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross, to all schools.
Many schools are already making good use of the resources and opportunities that are available to teach CPR, and to raise awareness of public access defibrillators. At Fulford school in York, for example, CPR training is managed by the deputy head teacher as part of his responsibility for pastoral care and character. One day each year is set aside to train all year 7 students; CPR training is part of their personal development lessons. At the last training session, around 30 teachers stayed behind to help and to learn the skills themselves. Feedback from the parent council has been favourable, as has been the response from students.
Other schools approach the training in a different way. For example, at Devonport high school for boys, CPR training sessions using the “Call, Push, Rescue” kit have been run in PSHE classes on Friday mornings. Since the school received the kit, year 10 students from three of the school’s six houses have undertaken the training.
I again thank the hon. Member for Bolton West and other hon. Members for their thoughtful and constructive contributions to the debate. I reassure them that I agree with them about the value and importance of first aid skills, and I also support access to defibrillators in schools. Although we do not believe that adding teaching on those issues to the national curriculum would advance the cause most effectively, we will always remain open to further discussions about the best way to promote those issues to schools and to ensure that schools have the resources they need to keep their staff and pupils safe.