Around 10,000 people die every year in Britain because people lack the confidence and skills to administer CPR, according to the British Heart Foundation.
The figures come on Restart a Heart Day, a nationwide drive in which more than 100,000 people in schools and community groups will be taught life-saving emergency techniques.
A study by a team at Warwick University found around one in eight cardiac arrest victims die as a result of poor CPR training levels in the general population.
Lead researcher professor Gavin Perkins said: “The community response to cardiac arrest is a critical step in the chain of survival.”
Survival rates are almost zero if people collapse and get no support until paramedics arrive, however immediate CPR in some cases can “double the chance” a person will live, professor Perkins added.
Overall, fewer than one in 10 people survive cardiac arrest in Britain.
BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said: “Shockingly, thousands of lives are being lost every year because people lack the confidence and skills to step in and save a live when someone collapses …
“Survival rates in the UK have remained stubbornly low for far too long and it’s time we improved them.
“That’s why we are urging secondary schools across the UK to apply for our free training kits and help create a nation of lifesavers.”
Restart a Heart Day is a collaboration between the Resuscitation Council, St John and Yorkshire ambulance services, the British Red Cross, the British Heart Foundation and other NHS and emergency services.
Dr Andrew Lockey, from the Resuscitation Council, said: “Today there will be in excess of 100,000 new lifesavers in the UK.
“This is a fantastic step towards training all children in CPR. That has to be the ultimate goal to give victims of cardiac arrest the best chance of survival.”
A poll suggested more than half (53%) of UK adults have never had any training – while nearly half (47%) would be worried about causing more harm than good.
The BHF supplies free Call Push Rescue training kits to secondary schools and community groups across the UK to help people learn CPR.
Peter Davidson and his wife Claire run CPD Training Solutions, based in Montrose. Peter was formerly head of sports science at Inverness Caledonian and Dundee United football clubs. They provide first aid training for local organisations and businesses including McDonald’s, Dundee City Council and various sports clubs.
“CPR is a very simple process that preserves someone’s life,” Peter (35) says. “There’s a misunderstanding of what CPR can do. It’s not like on Baywatch where people will immediately spring back to life. What it does is keep people from dying until an ambulance arrives.”
According to Peter, even if you can’t remember how many compressions to breaths to give or other details about CPR you will cause more harm by doing nothing than by having a go.
“Even if you don’t want to give lifesaving breaths, according to the British Heart Foundation just doing chest compressions alone is enough to circulate oxygenated blood around the body,” he continued.
“Every minute without treatment decreases survival chance by 10% so even if an ambulance is on its target time of eight minutes the victim’s chances of survival have fallen to just 20% by then.
“It’s better to have a go than stand back and do nothing.”
Peter also says public defibrillators should be more widely available: “They’re so easy to use these days and they do save lives.They should be a lot more widespread and more people should be trained in their use.”
Do you know CPR? We asked some members of the public in Dundee
Gary Prendiville, 48, sales executive.
“I was a registered first aider in my previous employment but it must have been at least 12 or 14 years since I last did a course. I can’t remember the exact ratio of compressions to breaths but I know it’s short, sharp compressions and you have to keep the airway open. I’d certainly have a go at it if someone keeled over.
Anna McFarlane, teacher, Dundee
“I learned to do CPR through my job as a secondary school teacher My first course was around 10 years ago and I’ve done refresher courses since. Fortunately I’ve never had to use it.”
Stacy Miller, 29, works for Arnold Clark in Dundee
“I’m afraid I’ve no idea how to do CPR. The chance to learn it has just never really come up. I’m a mum now so it’s certainly something that I should learn to do.”
Chris Trethowan, 64, retired prison officer
“I was trained in CPR as part of my job. You had to do a refresher every two years and we were also trained to use defibrillators. I haven’t done it for five years since I retired but I’d still know what to do. The thing everybody should be trained on is how to use defibrillators. They’re the things that really save lives.”