The ‘CPR Army’ was announced by NHS England’s National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, on Thursday 17 June, just days after the collapse of Danish footballer Christian Eriksen.

With only one in three people in England giving CPR when they witness someone going into cardiac arrest, Professor Powis said thousands more lives could be saved if more people knew what to do.

The NHS Long Term Plan aims to increase the out of hospital cardiac arrest survival rate in England from 7% to 25%.

Alongside NHS ambulance trusts, St John will create a network of 300 Community Advocates who will get out into the community and teach lifesaving skills to hundreds more. It’s hoped this will save up to 4,000 lives each year by 2028. The health and first aid charity recently trained 27,000 vaccination volunteers in these lifesaving skills and will seek to reach an additional 60,000 people as part of this new programme.

St John Ambulance’s Head of Community Response, Adam Williams, said: “We’re proud to lead this important initiative in partnership with the NHS. It’s a major step towards coordinating the provision of CPR and defibrillator training nationwide and supporting all communities to improve the response to cardiac emergencies. We’re looking forward to working with training providers, charities, businesses, and all people - young and old - to break down the barriers to learning these lifesaving skills, giving people the confidence to take action when it’s needed.

“We know from people’s response to our new ‘Ask Me’ campaign, that people are hungry for first aid training. Following Eriksen’s collapse we’ve seen a 1000% increase in calls asking for CPR training. In addition, searches for CPR advice are up 565% and defibrillator guides up 1,900%.”

In addition, the new partnership will aim to identify gaps in first aid training provision, both in terms of location and the communities’ demographic. Focus will be on reaching a more diverse range of communities, including socially isolated, vulnerable, and seldom heard groups who are often more at risk or have higher health inequalities.

Meanwhile, while the new programme gets underway, St John Ambulance is offering free CPR and defibrillator courses online.

For more information about St John Ambulance visit