Confusion around what to do during COVID-19 when someone’s in a cardiac arrest could cause delay in life-saving action.

New research has revealed that almost a third of adults in the North East don’t know if, during the COVID-19 pandemic, CPR should only be carried out by professionals wearing PPE (personal protective equipment).

You Gov carried out an online survey of 2,086 adults across the UK between 9-10 September 2020 and 94 people living in the North East responded to whether they believed it was true or false when asked the following statement:   

“Since the coronavirus pandemic it has emerged, all bystander CPR should only be carried out by professionals wearing PPE”.

•           19% of respondents in the North East responded true 

•           52% of respondents in the North East responded false 

•           29% of respondents in the North East said they didn’t know

The organisations behind Restart a Heart Day are concerned this could result in people waiting rather than acting to someone unconscious, putting thousands of lives at risk. They are urging the public to act immediately to perform CPR when someone has collapsed and stopped breathing.

Deputy medical director Michael Norton said, “Cardiac arrest can affect any of us at anytime and anywhere. Most cardiac arrests occur at home so if you witness a cardiac arrest, it will often be a family member.

“Even if you haven’t had an opportunity to enroll in a CPR course, you can help save a life by performing chest compressions. When you call us on 999, we will talk you through what to do while our colleagues are coming to help you.

“Even though today’s focus is on CPR with Restart a Heart Day, the advice you see being given will be useful to somebody every day of the year. In cardiac arrest, starting CPR, even if you have never had a lesson, gives the person a fighting chance of survival.”

Community resuscitation officer Alex Mason said, “CPR buys time when the heart has stopped beating, as it helps keep the brain alive. More people need to know what to do and I would encourage everyone to look at the resources online, even if you have been trained in the past as a refresher is always helpful and keeps you up to date with current guidelines.

“NEAS wants to help keep our communities safe and we offer first aid training, CPR and defibrillator awareness sessions, as well as public access defibrillator packages and advice.”

‘Get hands on’ is the call for all members of the public to do by acting immediately by performing hands-only CPR in an emergency.

Everyone is encouraged to learn the simple steps to perform CPR that will give a cardiac arrest victim the best chance of survival whilst reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission from performing CPR.

With 80% of out of hospital sudden cardiac arrests occurring in the home and with a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest reducing by 10% for every minute without CPR and defibrillation, the clear message on Restart a Heart Day is to learn CPR and have the confidence to use it.

This year, there is also an emphasis on learning and teaching CPR using updated guidance that reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission. With early reports showing that the chance of survival may have decreased in many countries because fewer bystanders are helping in an emergency, it is essential that the UK public take the time to learn CPR skills using the updated guidance.

These CPR skills can be learned on and around 16 October through the free digital resources available at: and by participating in digital training events across the country.

Guidance issued early in the pandemic by Resuscitation Council UK sets out how to do CPR with reduced risk to the bystander and without negatively impacting the collapsed person’s chances of survival.

The key changes are loosely laying a face covering, such as a mask, cloth, towel or item of clothing, over the mouth and nose of the person who has collapsed and to do hands-only CPR (no mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths).

Here are the steps you should take if you witness a cardiac arrest during COVID-19:

  1. If you see someone has collapsed and is not breathing or not breathing normally, do not put your face next to theirs when checking for breathing. Instead, check for signs of breathing by looking to see if their chest is moving.
  2. Call 999.
  3. Lay a face covering, such as a mask, a cloth, towel or piece of clothing loosely over the mouth and nose of the person who has collapsed (i.e. do not seal the mouth and nose)
  4. Do not do mouth to mouth rescue breaths
  5. Start chest compressions by pressing hard on the chest two times per second – you can keep your time by following the beat of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ or ‘Baby Shark’.
  6. Use a public access defibrillator if one is available 


Notes to editors

About Restart a Heart day

Every October, hundreds of thousands of people across the UK – and many more worldwide – learn CPR as part of the Restart a Heart campaign.

The campaign is led in the UK by Resuscitation Council UK alongside our partners - the British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and Yorkshire Ambulance Service. Every UK Ambulance service joins in to ensure as many people as possible are trained in life-saving skills.

We lead this national training event because we know that if more people learn CPR, more lives could be saved. The campaign brings communities together, raising awareness of cardiac arrest and increasing the number of people trained in the UK.

About Resuscitation Council UK

Resuscitation Council UK is saving lives by developing guidelines, influencing policy, delivering courses and supporting cutting-edge research. Through education, training and research, we’re working towards the day when everyone in the country has the skills they need to save a life.  

About The British Heart Foundation

One in four of us in the UK and one in three globally die from heart and circulatory diseases. That’s why the British Heart Foundation funds world-leading research into their causes, prevention, treatment and cure. Advances from our research have saved and improved millions of lives, but heart diseases, stroke, vascular dementia and their risk factors such as diabetes still cause heartbreak on every street. With the public’s support, our funding will drive the new discoveries to end that heartbreak.

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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