“This is a pioneering scheme and the first of its kind in the country”, said Dr. Skehan. “It involves local and national charities, schools and health and other organisations.” The ambition of this initiative is to not just to create a generation of young lifesavers, but through them, pass on the life-saving knowledge and training to their families and other parts of the community. In his presentation explaining how this ambition will be practically realised, he said, “Over the next year, we are hoping to provide training to 12,000 pupils. If we can teach more people what to do in an emergency, I believe we can increase the survival rate of people who are seen having a cardiac arrest from the current 10% to perhaps as much as 50%”.

 The programme is very much in line with the objectives of the RC(UK) and the BHF Campaign to have ELS training included as a mandatory part of the national school curriculum.

A successful launch

The launch was attended by 250 pupils representing schools across Leicestershire. To facilitate CPR practice, Laerdal Medical provided a room full of Mini Anne Plus re-usable manikins for a practical hands-on session following the presentations.

The use of the Mini Anne kit for wide scale community projects in CPR practice is a training model used successfully by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for their school projects.  The inclusion of a self-directed instructional DVD allows for greater reach of CPR education in the community as the pupil can take the one-time use Mini Anne manikin back home to friends and family for their use. Referred to as the ‘Multiplier Effect’, CPR skills are further proliferated in this way.

A community coming together

Such ambitious projects take the tireless efforts of individuals and organisations to come together. This campaign is no different with many leading institutions such as the BHF, RCUK, University Hospitals of Leicester and East Midlands Ambulance Services to name a few, playing a significant role in the realisation of this project. But so often is the case, it can take a personal tragedy to bring impetus, momentum and indefatigable campaigning to raise awareness of current sudden cardiac arrest outcomes and the need to improve community CPR and AED knowledge to increase them.

Increasing public awareness

The Joe Humphries Memorial Trust has played this key role in the development of the Heartsafe Schools Programme. The Trust was set up in memory of 14 year old Joe Humphries who died from Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS) in October 2012. Joe’s parents, Steve and Angie Humphries set up the Trust and work hard to raise public awareness of SADS and funds to help train people in resuscitation skills. “The Trust is very proud to be a partner in this initiative”, said Steve. “Thousands of lives could be saved if the public had the skills needed to deliver resuscitation immediately.”

The first phase of the programme will see training offered to all Year 10 students over the next 18 months. About 60 doctors, nurses and technicians at Leicester’s hospitals have volunteered to give the training including to school staff, who can then also pass on the skills.