Life-threatening emergencies, such as sudden injury or illness, can happen at any time, and when they do, immediate intervention is required. Providing first aid in these situations can prevent conditions from worsening, minimize damages, ensure a faster recovery time and even save lives.
This is common knowledge, but it’s not a myth — it’s backed up by a lot of statistics. A British Red Cross statistic shows that up to 59% of deaths caused by injuries across the UK could have been prevented if first aid had been administered before medical services arrived. It’s also estimated that over 600.000 people suffer non-fatal work injuries every year, and almost a fifth of the work-related injuries are caused by slips, trips, and falls, so there are plenty of opportunities for first-aiders to help.
The conclusion is clear: basic first aid knowledge is an important asset to have. But while the benefits of learning first aid are undeniable, most people don’t do anything in this respect, hoping that nothing serious will ever happen to them or those around them; or that if something does occur, there will be some trained professional at the scene to step in and save the day. This attitude has led to a worrying lack of confidence among UK adults in administering first aid, as several studies have come to reveal.
Brits shy away from performing first aid
Research conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by e-Learning expert Virtual College provides some very interesting, and quite alarming, insights on the topic. In the survey, 2,000 adults across the UK were interviewed and the results reveal a bleak reality: 32% of the respondents lack the confidence to intervene in an emergency situation and provide basic first aid.
It’s just as concerning that 1 in 10 people wouldn’t know what actions to take in the event of an accident where a person collapsed, apart from calling emergency services. What’s more, 87% of participants didn’t know how to conduct a primary survey and look for signs of danger before providing assistance to a casualty, if they arrive first at the scene of an accident — which could worsen the situation for all parties involved.
The age and the relationship people have with the victim also impact their confidence levels. Many of the respondents particularly fear giving emergency assistance to a child (28%) or a stranger (27%). As for more specific issues, figures are just as discouraging. Only 5% of the people interviewed would step in to treat a fracture, 13% would be able to perform the Heimlich maneuver, and 15% would feel confident to administer CPR.
It’s important to note that none of the respondents taking part in the survey had any first aid training, which highlights the root cause of the problem. Statistics would probably look a lot different if more people joined accredited first aid courses that could help them acquire life-saving skills. Figures are similarly concerning in the US, where over half of Americans say they can administer first aid, but only 1 in 6 know that CPR involves just chest compressions, not mouth breathing.
However, there’s also a positive aspect resulting from the study. Although Brits have a conflicting relationship with first aid practices, 70% of them said they would be willing to take a first aid course if that could help them gain life-saving skills.
A different study, released by the British Red Cross paints a similar picture. The study was conducted on 2,004 adults in the UK and revealed a staggering lack of confidence when it comes to administering first aid in an emergency. The majority of respondents would like someone to provide immediate assistance in the aftermath of a serious incident (88%), but only half of them would feel confident enough to act as first aiders. 70% of them stated that fear of making things worse is the main reason that stops them from taking action. But even if people could find the courage to step in, only 4% of them have the necessary first aid skills that enable them to help victims.
Barriers to action
It’s not unusual for people to be at a loss when they suddenly find themselves witnessing an emergency. This is a phenomenon commonly known as the Bystander Effect. People can have a flight or fight response and may experience a wide range of emotions such as fear, anxiety, confusion, anger, or frustration. The issue is rather complex given that people’s initial reaction is influenced by a number of factors such as personality traits, previous experiences involving emergencies, level of awareness and knowledge, etc.
However, some of the most cited reasons for not being able to provide lifesaving care usually include:
Fear of worsening the situation – a lot of people worry that their intervention could make things worse instead of helping the victim, which is a valid concern considering certain actions can result in further injuries. However, in most cases, minor injuries are preferable to a lack of action.
Fear of being sued – some believe that their good intentions could trigger a hostile response from the victim, and they may get sued for stepping in. Still, the no good deed goes unpunished adage doesn’t usually apply in these situations, so the chances of getting sued are quite slim.
Fear of catching a disease – it’s also common for people to feel repulsed and uncomfortable with the idea of providing first aid due to fear of contracting viruses or bacteria.
Fear of not being competent – even if they have some knowledge of first aid, certain people refuse to step in because they are not qualified in this respect, and wouldn’t want to take responsibility if something goes wrong.
First aid skills are probably the most important and useful skills anyone could ever learn. It gives people the confidence to act promptly in an emergency, promoting a sense of safety and well-being in all situations and settings, so investing in first aid can ensure a healthier future for everyone.
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