CPR advice made more accessible with new St John British Sign Language resource

Wednesday 2 August 2023: A new lifesaving video created by St John Ambulance in British Sign Language (BSL) hopes to help increase cardiac arrest survival rates within the Deaf community by showcasing how to give vital CPR and use a defibrillator. 

Created as part of St John Ambulances 'CPR Community Network’, a partnership between St John and NHS England, the impactful video features Deaf actor, Alex Nowak, and hard of hearing St John First Aider, Sarah Jacobs, performing life-saving chest compressions and defib shocks to a patient – with a BSL interpreter to the side - and provides a step-by-step guide explaining how to use 999BSL – a video relay service approved by Ofcom to help deaf and BSL speakers communicate with emergency services. 

The video, a first for the charity, follows St John’s recent creation of Urdu first aid resources and marks the next instalment of its ‘Translating with Communities’ project, which explains emergency first aid advice in languages of communities who have the lowest uptake of first aid training but a higher risk of cardiac arrest. 

According to the 2021 Census, it’s estimated over 21,500 people in the UK use BSL as their first language and many thousands more as a second language. In an emergency, every second counts and it is hoped the production of the video will give thousands more BSL users the confidence to save a life. 

St John volunteer, Sarah, who features in the video said: "British Sign Language resources are vital, especially for medical information as in my experience it's almost impossible to access health information as a Deaf person. I was really lucky that I grew up with the majority of my hearing and didn't start losing it significantly until I was in my late teens.  

"My friends who were deaf from birth have faced many barriers to get the same access to basic lifesaving skills because things like captions don't capture the full story.  

“BSL is a full, vibrant language and not having resources in your first language means that there are translation errors and information gets lost, that's why it's been great to be involved in this vital project." 

Community Engagement Manager for St John Ambulance, Adam Greenwood, said: “St John has a fantastic team of over 100 Community Advocate volunteers delivering lifesaving first aid awareness sessions to people in their community through the CPR Community Network.  

“Not only do they demonstrate how to give CPR and use a defibrillator in a supportive and compassionate learning environment and share vital resources such as our Urdu and BSL advice videos so more people can access lifesaving information in their preferred languages. 

“Our Community Advocates have already given over 4,000 people the confidence to use first aid in an emergency this year and continue to focus their work in the areas with the highest need, including those who don’t speak English as their first language.” 

The CPR Community Network was established in partnership with NHS England to help build stronger and more resilient communities and increase out of hospital cardiac arrest survival rates in England. 

The new video was produced with the guidance of  St John Ambulance’s Disability and Accessibility Network and 999BSL creators, Sorenson UK, to ensure it accurately reflects the needs of the deaf and BSL community. 

More information about St John Ambulance’s accessible first aid resources is available here: Accessible first aid resources | St John Ambulance (sja.org.uk)