New competitive CPR training research in local schools nears end of first year

Deborah Aitken

Author: Deborah Aitken

Paediatric Research Coordinator

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My team has been testing a new way to teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in Manchester sixth forms. The research will celebrate its first academic year when the summer holidays start in July.

Why are we doing it?

Would you know what to do if someone nearby had a cardiac arrest? Have you had CPR training? Do you remember any of it and would you be brave enough to use your skills on a real person to save their life?

Cardiac arrest isn’t just caused by a heart attack so it can happen to literally anyone. Drowning, electrocution, chocking and bleeding can all cause someone to need CPR.

In England the survival rate for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is 8.6%, which is much lower than many other European countries where the figures are nearer to 20%. This problem is caused by not enough people knowing how to do CPR because training is costly and isn’t compulsory. In addition, even if you have CPR training, this skill has been shown to very rapidly disappear after standard training.

It’s really important that as many people as possible know how to do CPR, and equally importantly, that they can maintain their skill after training. We have designed this innovative training scheme to do exactly that; increase the number of people who can perform good quality CPR so that survival of cardiac arrests outside of hospitals is more likely.


What’s involved?

This research involves leaving an advanced CPR manikin in each school that tells you how to improve your CPR skill and gives you a score at the end. The staff and students can train on the machine as often as they like and upload their scores to an online leaderboard to compete with other students in both their school and other schools. We are studying if this training paradigm has an effect on CPR performance or skill retention, and the role of self-motivated practice and motivation while training.

When’s it taking place?

This study started in schools in September 2015 and has been running throughout the whole of the school calendar. With each term, new schools have been included and more students and teachers have learnt, practiced, and hopefully improved and maintained their CPR skill. The six schools currently involved contain approximately 6,500 sixth form students who are eligible to participate and, when staff are included, this is a huge base of individuals who can now learn CPR in their place of work/study at times that suit them.

I have really enjoyed working with the schools. Our most recent school to join the study came online last month and is being championed by a student. It’s great to see how enthusiastic students have become about CPR and how it can spark some really interesting conversations and ideas. I try to live tweet the questions and answers whenever I go to a school because some of them are so original and interesting. The competition element is always a point of conversation especially if there is an opportunity to be better than a teacher at something!

Who’s taking part?

This new training scheme was developed by RMCH staff in partnership with research teams across the world in the INSPIRE network (INSPIRE is a network of researchers, clinicians, and educators working together to improve medical care using simulation). I am spearheading this research, as I work towards my PhD, led by my colleague Consultant Paediatric Anaesthetist and Paediatric Intensive Care Retrieval Physician, Professor Ralph MacKinnon.

How is it all coming together?

I have really enjoyed working on this research this year. It isn’t always smooth sailing though as this research is so new which means I experience all the issues first hand without anyone warning me because no one has done it before! It is simultaneously the most exciting and frustrating part of research. Additionally, and sometimes strangely, I like writing research papers, running stats, and going from raw data to a research paper because that’s the bit where all the running around, emergency plan Bs and late lunches are worth it and you know something no one else in the world knew before. Currently I am working on two papers from this project which I hope to have published soon and over the next 2 months I am presenting this data at a European and an International Conference. I am looking forward to making the programme bigger and better next year.

What’s next?

Right now this research is centred in Manchester but I already have wheels in motion to widen this scheme internationally and already have institutions interested in the USA, Africa, and Europe.

I hope that this training scheme can keep reaching more and more people and really make a difference. If the UK were to match the survival rates of Norway for out of hospital cardiac arrests, an additional 5,000 families every single year wouldn’t have to lose a loved one. I think that’s absolutely worth trying to achieve and why this research means so much to me.

To find out more and get your school involved in this project, please get in touch with me:

If you would like any other general advice or information about taking part in research, please contact RMCH Divisional Research Manager, Alison Robinson: