North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (NWAS) has launched an appeal to secondary schools in the region to show love for their students’ hearts on Valentine’s Day by signing up for a free lesson in life-saving.

The plea is made on behalf of the Resuscitation Council UK, British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance which have enlisted the support of all UK ambulance services to provide the country’s biggest ever CPR training event on Restart a Heart Day on 16 October 2017.

Building on the success of Restart a Heart Day 2016, which saw more than 16,500 students in the North West, and 150,000 nationally, trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) skills, the event will be repeated this year with a national training target of 200,000 students.

Restart a Heart Day will see NWAS and local partners providing practical lessons that cover how to recognise cardiac arrest, and how to help by doing effective CPR and using a defibrillator.

Cardiac arrest is the most extreme emergency and happens when the heart stops beating in a normal way, preventing blood from pumping around the body. 80% of out of hospital cases happen in the home.

It is different from a heart attack where there is an interruption to the blood supply of the heart and the person is conscious and breathing. Someone who is having a cardiac arrest will suddenly lose consciousness and will stop breathing normally.

A person in cardiac arrest will die within minutes unless they are treated immediately with CPR and defibrillation. The CPR keeps oxygen circulating around the body to prevent damage to the brain and other organs, while a defibrillator gives an electric shock to the heart in an attempt to restore its normal rhythm.

Survival rates for people who have cardiac arrests are dismal with less than one in ten people (8.6%) going on to make a recovery in the UK.

Despite the best efforts of ambulance services and national bodies to lobby the UK government to make CPR training in schools mandatory, it is still not part of the national curriculum. But if CPR skills were taught in schools, survival rates could significantly increase as they have in Scandinavia.

Today, people who have a cardiac arrest in Denmark are three times more likely to survive than a decade ago, thanks to mandatory CPR training and more defibrillators being available in public places.

Anyone can attempt CPR, but the lack of training means that people rarely have the confidence to do so. Only 30% of people who witness a cardiac arrest at home or in a public place will attempt CPR.

Complementary Resources Manager at NWAS, David McNally, said: “We are encouraging all secondary schools to sign up to our lesson in lifesaving on Restart a Heart Day because cardiac arrest kills people and the power to change this lies within our communities.

“Knowing what to do in an extreme emergency situation cannot be underestimated. CPR skills are so simple to learn and they absolutely do save lives. We are targeting secondary schools because children pick up new skills with ease and can take them into adult life.

“On Restart a Heart Day 2016, we trained over 16,500 young people in the North West; not bad for our first attempt, but this year we are aiming to double that number.

“We are calling on teachers, parents and students to put the pressure on their schools to take part in our movement to make the North West a ‘cardiac smart’ place. This means signing up to Restart a Heart Day, encouraging friends and family members to learn CPR, installing defibrillators in local communities and ultimately making our communities healthier and safer places to be.”

Schools that want to help to create the next generation of lifesavers can register their interest in Restart a Heart Day at www.nwas.nhs.uk/schools before 13 April 2017.

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