26 May 2020: St John Ambulance is urging business and public sector leaders to include first aid training in their plans for returning to work after it identified more than 60,000 of the country’s workplace first aiders will have missed essential re-qualification courses during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The health and first aid charity, which usually trains 250,000 workplace first aiders each year, has responded to the crisis by offering free online refreshers during the furlough period and by introducing socially distanced and safe face-to-face courses from June.

According to the charity, the lockdown and requirements for return to the workplace have left organisations and their workers vulnerable on first aid provision in the following ways:

  • 61,000 first aiders will have been due to requalify between April and September 30th, a period in which the Government extended the deadline for re-qualification. This means many first aiders expected to provide first aid in workplaces when they reopen will not have had their skills refreshed or assessed in over three years.
  • The shift patterns recommended to enable social distancing in workplaces mean more first aiders in total will be required.
  • First aiders need training in new or changed skills due to COVID-19. For example, there is renewed guidance on carrying out primary surveys and resuscitation.
  • First aiders at early learning settings and primary schools covering more year groups than usual are likely to need upskilling to ensure their knowledge covers both infant and child first aid.

St John reports that registrations for its online learning centre by workers in businesses and schools across the country have increased 20-fold in the last six weeks. And in a recent survey of its customers, 8% said they were ready to book employees on face-to-face training when it starts again in June. A further 25% said they were planning to take up courses in September.

However, St John Ambulance Director of Training and Enterprise, Mel Fox, urges more leaders to review their first aid provision:

“I understand how many practical difficulties leaders are trying to overcome at this stressful time but now, more than ever, is not the time to put health and safety on the back burner.

Mel Fox

“We wanted to do whatever we could to help organisations equip their first aiders in the best way possible during the furlough. We’re delighted tens of thousands of our free online courses have been completed already but remind managers they don’t replace the need for full requalification.

“Thousands already trained in first aid need to update their skills, and more need to be trained – not only to meet legal requirements but to help businesses adjust and thrive in the new, post-COVID-19 routine.

“It’s also worth highlighting our research that shows 61% of workplace first aiders have used their skills in a medical emergency outside the workplace, so we know they prove an invaluable resource to communities.”

He added that plans were underway to introduce blended learning soon, where half of the first aid course would be completed online and the other half socially distanced and safe.

St John Ambulance is also to run a series of free webinars on mental health first aid in June to replace its regional conferences on the subject and has created two new online mental health modules free of charge.

For more information visit https://www.sja.org.uk/courses/