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Maura Gillespie

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The Greatest Kiss of all is the Kiss of Life

Posted: 01/08/11 01:00

Kissing is something I've been interested in since I was 10 and boys suddenly became appealing, even if they were dancing to Wham! at the annual school disco. But this year I've been more passionate about kissing than ever because I've headed up a campaign calling on government to make it mandatory for all children to learn how to save a life. I'd love to see every single young person in the UK able to give the kiss of life.

The figures that got me interested in this campaign are huge. Each year in the UK, around 30,000 people have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital. That means for whatever reason their heart stops pumping blood around their body in the way that it should. Nearly half of all cardiac arrests are actually witnessed by a member of the public or a relative. Unfortunately not enough people know what to do in that situation and more than 27,000 of these patients never leave hospital alive. That's just a 10 per cent chance of survival.

But there is way to improve those terrible odds and it's our children who can be the difference between life and death. Put simply, if every young person in the UK were to leave school knowing emergency life support (ELS) skills, lives would be saved. I'm talking about very simple skills, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to deal with an unconscious person; serious bleeding; choking; and how to recognise the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Making this a reality doesn't have to mean the creation of an additional subject or asking for other important lessons to be scrapped. Effective training can be delivered to children in schools in just a single two hour session, repeated annually.

More than 600,000 secondary school students leave school each year, so that's more than half a million pairs of hands that could help save someone's life. This will unquestionably make a huge difference to survival rates.

In recent months the British Heart Foundation has been talking to Resuscitation Council UK (RCUK) about the problem and together we're calling for ELS skills to be taught within all secondary schools. Where possible, we want to see ELS become a mandatory part of the curriculum in each UK nation.

We recently commissioned a survey to see if teachers, parents and children wanted to see ELS in the classroom. The results revealed overwhelming support. More than four in five teachers believe ELS skills should be taught in school, and 70 per cent of parents agree. It also showed more than half of kids are powerless to help someone who has collapsed in the street despite three quarters wanting to be able to help.

It's clearly an idea with widespread support but what evidence is there that it will work?
Well, Seattle is a perfect example of how teaching these types of skills in school can save lives. The US city has been teaching CPR in its schools for more than 30 years. Half the population is now trained in CPR and survival rates for witnessed cardiac arrests have risen to an impressive 46 per cent. Seattle has realised that school is about teaching our children the skills they will need and use throughout their life and, as a result, they're so far ahead of the UK in terms of survival rates it's embarrassing.

August 2 is National Kissing Day and a great way to poke fun at the fact Brits are apparently losing their passion for a daily game of tonsil tennis. But it also serves as a timely reminder that the greatest kiss anyone can ever give is the kiss of life.

Show your support and sign our petition calling on governments across the UK to take up the challenge of getting all young people trained in how to save a live.