Peter Aldous backs first aid education Bill

20th November 2015

Peter Aldous backs a Private Member's Bill to make emergency first aid education compulsory in all state secondary schools.

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on the enthusiasm and determination with which she has promoted this Bill. I speak as chairman of the all-party group on first aid, which has received cross-party support in promoting this Bill. As we have heard, the Bill is supported by St John Ambulance, the Red Cross, the British Heart Foundation, and the Royal College of Nursing.

This is a short and straightforward Bill, which, if passed, will have far-reaching benefits for individuals, families and society as a whole. I will briefly outline the reasons why the Bill should be supported. First, it will save lives. At the APPG meeting on 16 September, I met Samantha Hobbs and her parents. When she was 14, Samantha saved her mother’s life. She said:

“It is horrible to think what could have happened if I had not known CPR.”

In those countries where CPR is taught in schools, survival rates are more than double those of the UK. If we could match our survival rates with those of Norway we could save 5,000 lives each year.

Mr Nuttall: Samantha Hobbs is the very brave young lady who was mentioned in a standard letter that was sent to me—to be fair, it is the same letter that I received from several constituents. Having met this very courageous young lady, can my hon. Friend explain where she learned her skills?

Peter Aldous: I do not have the precise answer to that. From what I understand, it was through her membership of St John Ambulance. I would not want to be quoted on that, but that is my understanding.

As well as having obvious benefits for the recipients of first aid, acquiring such skills can change the lives of young people. It can build confidence, unleash hidden talents and skills, and it can set people on a path that might lead to a career as a paramedic.

Secondly, for young people, knowing how to look after those around them can play a huge part in achieving independence and helping them when they move away from home. For young people who may be vulnerable, who may live in deprivation or who may be at risk of exclusion, acquiring such skills can be a real benefit and a positive life-changing experience.

Thirdly, ensuring that young people acquire such skills can have significant benefits for society as a whole. It encourages people to get involved in their communities, brings those communities together and builds social capital.

Mr Chope: My hon. Friend talks about ensuring that young people acquire such skills, but the Bill does not do that. It says that the skills can be taught, but there is no system of testing, assessing or judging attainment.

Peter Aldous: We can get a little bit too obsessed with continuous testing. Having been on one such course—in the previous Parliament, the APPG did organise such a course—I can say that it is far better to acquire the skills at a young age. It was slightly comical to watch some of us attempting to carry out these skills, but if we can acquire the knowledge at a young age, it will remain with us forever.

Mrs Murray rose

Dr Mathias rose

Peter Aldous: I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) first.

Mrs Murray: My hon. Friend might like to know that, over the 21 years that I worked at Cawsand surgery, I did CPR training every three years. The advice changed over that period, which is why people need to update their certification every three years.

Peter Aldous: I thank my hon. Friend for that advice. I agree with her, but once a person acquires basic knowledge, it can stay with them for the remainder of their life.

Dr Mathias rose

Peter Aldous: I see that there is a doctor in the House; I look to her to take this forward.

Dr Mathias: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the best tests of CPR training is that experiential feeling? Members who attended the British Heart Foundation showcase will know that, after training, a person knows the pressure required on Resusci Annie. The test is whether people use “Nellie the Elephant”, “Stayin’ Alive”— everybody listening will know what I am talking about—or have Vinnie Jones in their mind.

Peter Aldous: I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. The measures could save money. Funds for public services are, we hear, in short supply. The NHS faces significant pressures; why not relieve some of them? If, as a society, we all had a simple knowledge of first aid, it would provide some relief to accident and emergency units, and the people doing great work in them, and they could get on with the work they want to do.

Mr Nuttall: My hon. Friend raised the question of cost, which has hardly been touched on. As he states that the measures will save money, he must have made some assessment of how much they will cost.

Peter Aldous: First—this is the embodiment of the big society—organisations such as St John Ambulance and the British Heart Foundation are prepared to take the financial strain on this; it is important to remember that.

Alex Cunningham: Let us get down to basics: this is about time versus lives—a few hours a year in schools to impart basic knowledge that could save 5,000 lives a year. Does my hon. Friend agree, as chair of the all-party group on first aid?

Peter Aldous: I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. Thirty-six US states, Germany, France and several Scandinavian countries have compulsory first aid education on the curriculum. If we did in this country, it would bring significant benefits. Today, I should be with members of Waveney youth council on its youth breakout day. When I explained to them why I would not be with them, I sought their views on the Bill, although the situation in Waveney schools appears to be better than it is across the country as a whole. I received a very clear message: “Go for it.” In that context, I urge the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

10.37 am

Surgeries

Peter holds regular surgeries at various locations in the constituency. Please call 01502 586568 to make an appointment.

 

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