Do you know how to do CPR?

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a life-saving procedure which anyone can do on someone who is in cardiac arrest. It helps to pump blood around the person’s body when their heart can’t. Early CPR saves lives…

Giving CPR buys the patient time until we, the ambulance service, can get there. You can’t hurt the person; doing something can only help. For every minute without life-saving treatment the chance of surviving a cardiac arrest drops by about 10% – meaning that the time before an ambulance arrives is crucial. We are urging everyone to take the time to learn what to do so you can become a lifesaver.

Cardiac Arrest vs Heart Attack

Each year, West Midlands Ambulance Service attends about 4,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests. A cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical problem in the heart. This electrical problem causes the heart to stop pumping blood around the body and to the brain. When someone’s in cardiac arrest, they will be unconscious and stop breathing. Without CPR the person will die within minutes. CPR should only be used if someone is:

  • unconscious and not breathing
  • unconscious and not breathing normally.

A heart attack is different to a cardiac arrest. It happens when an artery supplying blood to the heart muscle becomes blocked. This starves part of the heart muscle of oxygen and causes symptoms such as chest pain or discomfort. A person having a heart attack is usually still conscious and breathing but if a heart attack isn’t treated, it can lead to a cardiac arrest.


How to do CPR

Watch Cliff Medlicott, Community Response Manager, demonstrating how to do CPR:

Step 1: Shake and shout

If you come across someone who is unconscious, always check for danger and look for risks before you start helping. Check for a response – gently shake the person’s shoulders and ask loudly ‘are you alright?’. Shout for help – if someone is nearby, ask them to stay as you might need them. If you are alone, shout loudly to attract attention, but don’t leave the person.

Step 2: Check for normal breathing

Someone having a cardiac arrest won’t be breathing, or won’t be breathing normally. They also won’t be conscious. Keeping their head back, check if the person is breathing normally by looking for:

  • regular chest movements
  • listening for breathing
  • feeling for breath on your cheek.

Look, listen and feel for no more than 10 seconds. Don’t confuse gasps with normal breathing. If you’re not sure if their breathing is normal, act as if it’s not normal.

  • If you’re sure the person is breathing normally, then put them in the recovery position and call 999.
  • If breathing isn’t normal, open their airway. To do this, place one hand on the person’s forehead, gently tilt their head back, then lift their chin using two fingers of your other hand under their chin – when you do this you open their airway.

Step 3: Call 999

If the person is not breathing or not breathing normally:

If you can’t find anyone to help, call 999 before you start CPR.

Step 4: Give 30 chest compressions

  • Kneel next to the person.
  • Place the heel of one hand in the centre of their chest. Place your other hand on top of the first. Interlock your fingers.
  • With straight arms, use the heel of your hand to push the breastbone down firmly and smoothly, so that the chest is pressed down between 5–6 cm, and release.
  • Do this at a rate of 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute – that’s around 2 per second

Step 5: Give two rescue breaths

  • Open the airway again by tilting the head back and lifting the chin. Pinch the soft part of the person’s nose closed.
  • Take a normal breath, make a seal around their mouth and breathe out steadily.
  • The person’s chest should rise and fall. Keeping the person’s head back and the chin lifted, take your mouth away, take another normal breath, and give a second rescue breath. The two breaths should take no longer than five seconds.

Step 6: Repeat until an ambulance arrives

  • Repeat 30 compressions and two rescue breaths.

If you’d rather not give rescue breaths then call 999 and deliver hands-only CPR. That’s better than doing nothing. Keep going until professional help arrives and takes over, or the person starts to show signs of regaining consciousness, such as coughing, opening their eyes, speaking, or breathing normally.

If you’re feeling tired, and there’s someone nearby to help, instruct them to continue and swap over until the ambulance service arrives.


For more information about CPR, please visit the British Heart Foundation