Fewer than one in five in East know basic first aid skills

A new hard-hitting campaign from St John Ambulance is highlighting how up to 140,000 people die each year in situations where first aid could have helped save their lives - as many as those that die from cancer.

Hwoever, new research by the charity shows that almost four times as many people in the East of England think cancer is a bigger killer than a lack of first aid – when the evidence shows both need to be taken equally seriously.

To highlight this new startling comparison, the charity has unveiled a hard-hitting campaign, which seeks to encourage more people to learn basic first aid skills.

The 60-second film, which aired yesterday evening during ITV1's Downton Abbey, follows the journey of a man who is diagnosed with cancer, undergoes treatment, and survives only to die as a result of choking at a family gathering because no one knows the basic first aid that could have saved his life.

The St John Ambulance survey revealed that people in the East of England are going to great lengths to improve their chances against cancer, with almost two-fifths (39.2pc) of those questioned making changes to their diet, almost half (49.9pc) not smoking and over one-third (34.9pc) increasing the amount of exercise they do.

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However, when it comes to first aid, it's a very different story with fewer than one in five (16.7pc) knowing even the basic skills that could be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.

Sue Killen, St John Ambulance chief executive, said: 'Cancer is a serious disease, which kills tens of thousands of people each year. When a loved one has cancer, although we do all we can to support them, over three-quarters (79.6pc) of people are consumed by a feeling of helplessness.

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'In situations where first aid could help save a life we don't have to feel helpless, because learning life saving skills is so simple. That's why it's so concerning that fewer than one in five of us knows even basic first aid. This has got to change if we are to stop up to 140,000 lives from being needlessly lost each year.'

The research also showed that people tend not to learn first aid because they think it is too time consuming or it is simply not a priority for them.

The charity is urging everyone to get a free pocket-sized guide featuring first aid skills that can help in five common life-threatening situations by texting HELP to 80039.

To see the film visit www.sja.org.uk/helpless

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