Every year, in Northern Ireland, approximately 1500 Cardiac Arrests happen in the out of hospital environment. Many people confuse “Cardiac Arrest” and “Heart Attack”. In Cardiac Arrest the heart stops beating and unless attended to immediately the chances of survival are severely diminished – in fact, for every minute that passes without action, such as CPR, the chances of survival decrease by approximately 10%.
The survival rate here for Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest (OOHCA) sits at a low 10%, compared to other countries. We have work to do to improve the survival rates for OOHCA. Everyone has a role to play and can enrol in many schemes at work and out of work which teach CPR. CPR is a key element in the chain of survival as it keeps blood pumping around the body until medical help arrives – and it increases the chances of survival.
Two survivors of OOHCA, Lynda Donaldson and Clare Doyle, are keen advocates for CPR awareness and recently joined NIAS at an event to promote the learning of CPR in the school environment in the lead up to national “Restart a Heart Day”.
The initiative is a joint one with NIAS partnered by CCEA, the Education Authority NI and our four teacher education universities to integrate a “train the trainer” model for Emergency Life Support, including CPR, into the teacher education curriculum.
The aim of the partnership is to create and deliver “Lifesaver Ambassador” training to student teachers, whereby they will bring into the school environment, as newly qualified teachers the skills necessary to deliver Emergency Life Support skills to their pupils.
The Department of Education recently announced that all children in post-primary schools will receive CPR Training. Based on the same model as its forerunner, the “Community of Lifesavers Education Programme” will enable those schools, who have been previously registered in the Heartstart programme, to continue to deliver, to children, this vitally important training in how to save a life.
Stephanie Leckey, Community Resuscitation Lead with NIAS, highlighted the potential benefits of this initiative saying;
“Schools and the ambulance service are both embedded within the communities we serve. I am delighted on behalf of NIAS to announce this partnership with our teacher education universities, and by extension our schools, which will provide generations of young people with the skills and the confidence to save a life. Recent research has shown that only 17% of children who have not had CPR training would be confident to perform CPR if someone collapsed or stopped breathing in front of them. If we are to improve survival rates for Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrests in Northern Ireland, that statistic must change. The Universities are partnering with us to include Lifesaver Ambassador training as part of their undergraduate and post-graduate teacher education curriculum. As such, they will, as newly qualified teachers, be equipped with skills necessary to deliver Community of Lifesavers Education Programme in schools. I am confident that this initiative will save lives”
The initiative has the full support of Northern Ireland’s four teacher training universities- Stranmillis University College, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University and St Mary’s University College- who collectively commented:
“Out of hospital cardiac arrest is a major source of death in Northern Ireland. Our schools and colleges are at the heart of every community and, as such, have the potential to play a key role in CPR education, training and promotion. We are delighted to be working with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service on its innovative Community of Lifesavers Education Programme to help develop resource materials for CPR education in schools. Stranmillis, Queen’s, Ulster and St Mary’s are committed to working in partnership with NIAS and CCEA to embed CPR and AED awareness training within initial teacher education. This ambitious project will equip newly qualified teachers with the skills to deliver Emergency Life Support Skills to pupils in Primary, Post-Primary and SEN Schools settings. Vitally, it will also allow those teachers to act as Lifesaver Ambassadors to broaden and develop those Lifesaver skills within the wider community and, ultimately, save lives”.
Health Minister Robin Swann, who attended the launch, said:
“The announcement today that the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Community Resuscitation Team will provide Lifesaver Ambassador training to both undergraduate and post graduate student teachers is a huge step forward in ensuring as many people as possible are trained in this life saving skill. These teachers will pass the skills onto their pupils, increasing the community of people who are trained and helping to improve survival rates of those suffering a cardiac arrest.”
Adding her support to the initiative, Education Minister, Michelle McIlveen, MLA said:
“I welcome this valuable partnership. It is important that our teachers have the expertise and confidence to teach CPR in our schools. CPR is a critical and potentially life-saving skill. The dual approach of equipping our new teachers with these skills and providing CPR training to pupils within the school curriculum will undoubtedly have a clear and measurable impact on survival rates. It will, quite simply, save lives.”