A woman comes across a man in the road who appears to be have fallen from his bike.

At the British Red Cross, we know that first aid can save lives. We recently released a study that showed how just two simple actions, carried out before the arrival of the emergency medical services, could help to do this. Do you know them? 

The majority of people in the UK lack the confidence or skills to provide basic first aid in an emergency situation. This leads to unnecessary deaths, injuries and disabilities, and can put greater pressure on emergency services.

But we can all be life-savers. Our #DontStopAt999 campaign aims to raise awareness of how simple first aid could help to reduce the number of people who die from injury before reaching hospital.

In a recent study commissioned by the Red Cross and conducted by the University of Manchester, we found that up to 59 per cent of deaths from injury may have been prevented had first aid been carried out before the arrival of the emergency medical services.

There is a window of opportunity between dialling 999 and the arrival of the emergency medical services, where two first aid actions in particular could save someone’s life.

These are:

  • Turning an unresponsive person who is breathing on their side and tilting their head back to open their airway.
  • Applying pressure to a heavy bleed to help stem the flow of blood.

With the news that ambulance services are under pressure to reach ill and injured people within their target times, it has never been more crucial for more people to know first aid.

The Red Cross continues to call for more opportunities to learn first aid throughout people’s lifetime, starting at school, but also through the driving test and public health initiatives.

In the meantime, learn these two simple actions today – you could help save a life.

First aid for someone who is unresponsive and breathing

  1. Check breathing by tilting their head backwards and looking and feeling for breaths.
  2. Move them onto their side and tilt their head back.
  3. As soon as possible, call 999 or get someone else to do it.
 First aid for a heavy bleed

  1. Put pressure on the wound with whatever is available to stop or slow down the flow of blood.
  2. Call 999 as soon as possible, or get someone else to do it.
  3. Keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.
Learn more

This blog was written by Joe Mulligan, head of first aid education at the British Red Cross.