Coronavirus in Scotland: Is it safe to give a stranger CPR?

Guidance around giving CPR to strangers has changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Picture: Scottish Ambulance Service

Around 3,500 people experience cardiac arrest outside of hospital in Scotland every year, but figures published pre-pandemic showed that survival rates were rising because bystanders were increasingly likely to perform CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

But CPR categorically breaks guidance on social distancing and interacting with non-household members during Covid-19.

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Recent research on behalf of the Resuscitation Council UK showed that a third of adults in the UK do not know whether or not bystanders should perform CPR, or if they should wait for a professional wearing PPE.

The Scottish Ambulance Service and Resuscitation Council UK have now released clear guidance on the matter, saying that bystanders should carry out CPR when they can, despite the risks of Covid-19 transmission.

The key message is that you should try and resuscitate the other person while keeping yourself safe.

Those wishing to give CPR should put a cloth or towel loosely over the other person’s face to reduce the risk of infection.

On Restart a Heart Day, Dr Andrew Lockey, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Resuscitation Council UK said: “The principle message for Restart a Heart is that you can still save a life, whilst keeping yourself safe.”

Lisa MacInnes, Director of the Save a Life for Scotland campaign said: “Scotland as ever, continues to step up to look out for each other in their families and communities.

"Covid-19 has highlighted that Scots are ready and willing to care for those around them and when it comes to CPR they continue to be willing to get help and start CPR. Our message today is please keep going. Your actions continue to give people the best chance of survival. Please use and share our videos with others to keep the message going that any CPR beats no CPR.”

The Safe a Live partnership has celebrated training 640,790 people in Scotland to perform CPR up until the lockdown came into force in March.

This has contributed, they said, to a 45 per cent increase in 30-day survival rates for those who have had an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest doubling to 1 in 10 since the strategy launch in 2015.

Pauline Howie, Chief Executive for Scottish Ambulance Service, said: "The Scottish Ambulance Service would like to say a massive thank you for what you have helped us, and all the strategy partners, to achieve over the last five years.

"Bystander CPR is the most crucial link in the chain of survival and because so many more of you have learnt and been willing to perform bystander CPR we have seen survival double in that time; double the number of people surviving and returning to their loved ones.

Our message is still clear - early bystander CPR is the difference between life and death for those in cardiac arrest. So please keep attempting CPR. Our call handlers will guide you through how to do this safely, meaning you too can save a life ".

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