Emergency advice

Adult CPR:

1. Call 999
2. Put a towel or item of clothing over the face
3. Perform chest compressions to the tempo of "Staying Alive". Do not give rescue breaths
4. Use defibrillator if available
5. Continue chest compressions until help arrives.

What is CPR?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It combines chest compressions and rescue breaths to give a person the best chance of survival following a cardiac arrest.

We've updated our guidance due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Do not perform rescue breaths on the casualty.

If an adult is unresponsive and not breathing normally, you still need to call 999 or 112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away.

For more information on CPR during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the Resuscitation Council website.

What to do

  1. First aid - call 999 or 112 for emergency help

    If you find someone collapsed, you should first perform a primary survey. Do not place your face close to theirs. If you have established from this that they are unresponsive and not breathing, you should ask a helper to call 999 or 112 for emergency help while you start CPR. Ask a helper to find and bring a defibrillator, if available.

    • Ask your helper to put the phone on speaker and hold it out towards you, so they can maintain a 2m distance
    • If you are on your own, use the hands-free speaker on a phone so you can start CPR while speaking to ambulance control
    • Do not leave the casualty to look for a defibrillator yourself. The ambulance will bring one.
  2. Step2-cardiac-arrest-adult-COVID2

    Before you start CPR, use a towel or piece of clothing and lay it over the mouth and nose of the casualty.

    Start CPR. Kneel by the casualty and put the heel of your hand on the middle of their chest. Put your other hand on top of the first and interlock your fingers.

    Keep your arms straight and lean over the casualty. Press down hard, to a depth of about 5-6cm before releasing the pressure, allowing the chest to come back up.

    • The beat of the song "Staying Alive" can help you keep the right speed
    • Do not give rescue breaths.
  3. step3-cardiac-arrest-COVID

    Continue to perform CPR until:  

    • emergency help arrives and takes over  
    • the person starts showing signs of life and starts to breathe normally
    • you are too exhausted to continue (if there is a helper, you can change over every one-to-two minutes, with minimal interruptions to chest compressions)
    • a defibrillator is ready to be used.
  4. Step4-Adult-cardiac-arrest-COVID

    If the helper returns with a defibrillator, ask them to switch it on and follow the voice prompts while you continue with CPR.

    • Wherever possible, the helper should keep a distance of 2m.
  5. Step5-cardiac-arrest-COVID

    If the casualty shows signs of becoming responsive such as coughing, opening eyes, speaking, and starts to breathe normally, put them in the recovery position. Monitor their level of response and prepare to give CPR again if necessary.

    • If you have attached a defibrillator, leave it in place.

CPR training card

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Related first aid advice

How to do the primary survey

Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.

How to use a defibrillator

By using a defibrillator before an ambulance arrives, you can significantly increase someone’s chance of survival. Learn what to do.

How to put an adult in the recovery position

It’s safe to place someone in the recovery position who is not responding to you but is breathing normally. Learn what to do.

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