World First Aid Day - St John Ambulance finds just 29% of people ‘very confident’ in first aid skills

Thursday, 07 September 2023: Research by health and first aid charity St John Ambulance reveals few feel confident using first aid skills and is urging – on World First Aid Day (September 9) - for more people to learn and renew simple life-saving skills.  

The survey found 1 in 4, (25%) have saved a life and, of those 58% have saved a family member, 56% a friend, 52% a work colleague, and 52% a stranger.  

St John Ambulance conducted the survey of 1,000 young people aged 10-17 and 1,000 adults in the UK to coincide with its Ask Me campaign to highlight its work helping members of the public gain the skills that help them save lives where they live and work.  

But the survey found just 29% of those surveyed, said they felt ‘very confident’ in first aid – and St John Ambulance would like to see this improved on. 

St John is encouraging more people, and ‘tomorrow’s life-savers' to join one of its core five youth programmes to gain first aid skills for life, as well as confidence and leadership skills. It also wants to recruit more adult volunteers to support its youth work. 

The survey also asked what first aid skills people wanted to learn – with heart attacks and choking being the two health threats people wanted to know how to treat, and 20% keen to know how to respond and treat a knife wound. 

When it came to defibrillators, Londoners, (59%) those in the West Midlands (54%) and Northern Ireland (63%) had the greatest knowledge of where the nearest one to their home was located – in contrast to 32% in the South West who were the lowest scoring most aware. 

Three thirds (75%) agreed that mental health first aid should be taught alongside physical first aid in schools. 

Survey breakdown 

  • Just 29% overall said they were ‘very confident’ in first aid skills  
  • 1 in 4 (25%) said they had saved a life  
  • Younger generations had slightly better first aid awareness and confidence than older people (Note: teaching first aid in schools in England has been compulsory since 2020)  

  • 75% agreed mental health first aid should be taught in schools alongside physical first aid   
  • Heart attacks and choking are the two first aid incidents those surveyed wanted to learn about  
  • A fifth (20%) wanted to know how to treat a knife wound and overdoses 
  • Defib awareness – people in London (59%), the West Midlands (54%) and Northern Ireland (63%) were the most aware of the nearest public defibrillator to their home – compared to 32% of those in the South West 
  • Both young people and adults agreed there was a ‘moral obligation for more of the public to be trained in first aid – with 73% adults agreeing, and 75% of 10–17-year-olds agreeing. 

Director of Youth and Education at St John, Paul Evans, said “Our youth programmes are thorough, fun, and a great way to develop confidence, life skills and make new friendships. And as our survey shows, skills learnt could well be used to save the life of a family member or friend.” 

* Schools can now take advantage of St John’s iDEA Badge – a free, digital first aid badge which aims to work alongside the compulsory teaching of first aid in schools. The badge takes no longer than 40 mins to complete and covers advice for how to CPR and using a defibrillator, recovery position, chest pain, severe bleeding and choking. More information is available at: First Aid | iDEA