Woman performing CPR on a man who is unconscious and not breathingIf you suffer a cardiac arrest in the UK and you’re not in a hospital, your chance of survival is less than one in ten.

When someone has a cardiac arrest, their heart stops completely. They collapse, lose consciousness and stop breathing. It’s really important to act fast. This is what you should do. 

  1. Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.
  2. Call 999 as soon as possible, or get someone else to do it.
  3. Push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release.
  4. Push at a regular rate until help arrives.

Giving chest compressions can keep casualties alive for those precious few minutes before help arrives. You’re pumping a small amount of blood around the body to keep the organs – most importantly the brain – alive.

Don’t give up

If you have to give someone chest compressions, you may not see any change in their condition. But don’t give up. Chest compressions significantly increase the possibility of the person being resuscitated when the emergency services arrive.

The invention of CPR

Dr James Jude invented CPR (which stands for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) in the 1950s. At that time cardiac arrest casualties were taken to hospital before they got any treatment.  Here they had their chest cut open and a doctor massaged their heart. As you can imagine, survival rates weren’t great.

Dr Jude knew that when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, there is no time to waste. Quick treatment is essential. (Every minute lost decreases a casualty’s chances of recovery.)

He realised there was an easy way for anyone to jump-start a heart: applying pressure rhythmically with the heel of the hand to the centre of the chest.


Dr James Jude

In 1963, CPR was formally endorsed by the American Heart Association. Within a few years, it had caught on across the world.

Pizza delivery boy saves a life

Dr Jude died in August this year – but his inspired discovery continues to save lives.

British Red Cross fundraiser Demelza was training for the London marathon when she had to put Dr Jude’s technique into practice.

“I found an old lady who had collapsed in the middle of the road. She’d fallen off the kerb, broken her hip and gone into shock. Her heart had just stopped. I had to give her chest compressions in the middle of this thunderstorm.”

And this summer, American teenager Anson Lemmer saved a life with CPR during “the craziest pizza delivery ever.”

The 19-year-old had just started a new job delivering pizzas. He’d only been working for two days when he arrived at a delivery address. There he found a man turning blue outside the house.

One person was attempting to give him CPR and another was calling 911 – but the outlook was grim.

Training sticks with you

Luckily, Anson had done a first aid course and knew exactly what to do. He dived straight in to help. He gave chest compressions to the casualty and didn’t stop until the emergency services arrived.

He later recalled: “I took a CPR training course with the Red Cross when I was 12 or 13, and I guess that’s the kind of training that really sticks with you.”

The teenager added: “It’s important to not get caught up in the bystander effect. If I stumble across something like that, I’m going to do anything I can to help.”

His new bosses were really impressed, as were the emergency team, who shook the young hero’s hand at the scene. The casualty was taken to hospital where he was expected to make a full recovery.

Anson said: “Afterwards, I called my parents and told them this had been the craziest pizza delivery ever. I left a pizza boy and came back a pizza man.”

First aid in schools

We’ve teamed up with The British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance to get life-saving first aid on the school curriculum. You can help train a generation of life-savers by supporting our campaign. Time is running out to get the message to MPs – so please take action today.