British Heart Foundation

Heartstart training

Would you know what to do in a life-threatening emergency?

Learning Emergency Life Support (ELS) skills can help you keep someone alive until professional help arrives.

Our Heartstart initiative teaches people what to do in a life-threatening emergency

– simple skills that save lives.


Learn Hands Only CPR

Call 999

Then push Hard and Fast

to the beat of Stayin’ Alive

It’s not as hard as it looks !

About Heartstart

About Heartstart schemes

Heartstart schemes are run by people like you. They’re independent of the BHF and provide free ELS training in the community and schools. They are aimed at the public, and anyone from the age of ten upwards can attend and learn the complete range of ELS skills. To date 2.6 million peoplehave been trained through Heartstart. The Heartstart programme includes skills such as:

  • assessing an unconscious patient,
  • performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR),
  • dealing with choking,
  • serious bleeding,
  • helping someone that may be having a heart attack.

Knowing what to do when someone has a cardiac arrest is important. If you can do CPR you can buy the time needed for professional help to arrive and save the life of your loved one. Being able to do CPR more than doubles their chance of survival. The Heartstart course is designed the course to follow the current Resuscitation Council (UK) guidelines. The course lasts for two hours and provides practical hands-on learning.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Heart attack symptoms

It’s important to remember that the symptoms of a heart attack can vary from one person to another.

Symptoms can range from a severe pain in the centre of the chest, to having mild chest discomfort that makes you feel generally unwell. In some cases, chest pain or discomfort are accompanied by other symptoms.

If you, or anyone around you, experience any of these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Phone 999 for an ambulance immediately. This means that you will get treatment as soon as possible.

The sooner you get treatment, the greater your chances of survival.

Symptoms include:

  • central chest pain; a dull pain, ache or ‘heavy’ feeling in your chest; or a mild discomfort in your chest that makes you feel generally unwell. The pain or discomfort may feel like a bad episode of indigestion
  • this pain or discomfort may spread to the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
  • as well as having chest pain or discomfort you can feel light-headed or dizzy and short of breath
  • You may also feel nauseous or vomit


A defibrillator is a life-saving machine that gives the heart an electric shock in some cases of cardiac arrest. This is called defibrillation and can save lives. Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood around the body. When someone has a cardiac arrest, defibrillation needs to be prompt. For every minute that passes without defibrillation chances of survival decrease by 14 per cent. Research shows that applying a controlled shock within five minutes of collapse provides the best possible chances of survival.

Getting defibrillators into the right places

Defibrillators, also known as automated external defibrillators (AEDs), need to be placed strategically – in areas where there is a high incidence of cardiac arrest and where it’s difficult for an ambulance to get quickly.

Rural areas, communities with poor road networks or traffic congestion, and where large crowds gather are all places where we need defibrillators the most.

We can support the cost of a defibrillator with a grant, but grant applicants must provide for ongoing maintenance and community based groups should be trained regularly. For information on how to apply for funding, please get in touch.

More than 6,000 defibrillators have already been placed in the community since we started donating them in 1996. We know of at least 230 lives that have been saved through our investment.

Using defibrillators

How do I use one properly?

It’s very easy to use an AED. The rescuer turns the machine on which then gives voice prompts, telling the rescuer what to do. The rescuer will be asked to put pads into position on the person’s chest. These pads detect electrical activity in the heart and will be able to tell if a shock is needed. Anyone can use an AED, but it’s preferable that people receive training first. It would be better if more people were trained in CPR, which buys time before defibrillation.

Should a defibrillator be kept locked away so it doesn’t get damaged or stolen?

We have a policy that AEDs we fund should not be put in locked or code-restricted cabinets.

Should GP surgeries to be equipped with defibrillators?

Research shows that GP surgeries equipped with defibrillators can improve survival by up to 60 per cent if the patient is treated immediately or soon after entering cardiac arrest

How a BHF defibrillator saved Gary’s life

Research shows that GP surgeries equipped with defibrillators can improve survival by up to 60 per cent if the patient is treated immediately or soon after entering cardiac arrest.

Gary Humphries, 54, from Caerphilly, owes his life to staff at his local leisure centre.

Gary suffered a massive heart attack and went into cardiac arrest whilst playing squash at Hawthorn Leisure Centre in Treforest, Rhondda Cynon Taf.

He would have died if the centre had not had a defibrillator funded by us Two members of staff, Anthony Blackburn and John Hancock, had recently been trained how to use the equipment by Tony Rossetti, a BHF-funded community defibrillation officer. It was the first time they had needed to put their training into practice.

Anthony and John were at the scene within a minute and applied a shock from the defibrillator within two minutes. The shock revived Gary, who had been clinically dead for those two minutes. There is no doubt their speedy response saved Gary’s life.

 I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for their quick response and skills and the fact there was a defibrillator in that leisure centre.

Gary’s father died from a heart attack aged 46, and his grandmother died from a heart attack aged 59. Gary had been on medication for high cholesterolsince his father died, but played sport and tried to eat healthily. He stopped smoking many years ago.

After his cardiac arrest, it took five days before Gary came around. He underwent angioplasty surgery and had a stent fitted to improve his blood flow through his narrowed arteries. He is now taking beta blockers, statins and other drugs and has returned to work as a material controller for Rolls Royce engines.

Gary says: “I owe Anthony and John my life. I didn’t even know what a defibrillator was before that day – I certainly do now!”

Gary is now campaigning for more defibrillators to be made available in public places, particularly in Wales, and he is determined to become a First Responder for his area so that he can help save other heart attack victims’ lives.

He added: “I don’t feel at all impaired now and I have probably come out of this a stronger person. Whatever I can do to make a difference, I will do, however small a difference it makes.”

Life Saving Skills

Life Saving Skills

You can help save lives by making sure you know the signs and what to do.

Our Heartstart training teaches Emergency Life Support (ELS) skills - the set of actions needed to help keep someone alive until professional help arrives.

About ELS

Emergency life support includes performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), which is chest compressions and rescue breathing.

Other actions include dealing with choking and serious bleeding and how to recognise the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

About Hands-only CPR

If an adult has suddenly collapsed, is not breathing normally and is unrepsonsive, they are in cardiac arrest. There is no time to lose. Even if you are untrained your actions can help.

There are two simple actions that you can do to help save their life.

  1. Call 999
  2. Push hard and fast in the centre of their chest about 100 – 120 times a minute until the ambulance service arrives.

How can you help?

By knowing the signs of cardiac arrest and heart attacks you can ring the emergency services as early as possible and help to reduce the amount of time it takes before someone gets professional treatment. You can also learn emergency life support skills through our Heartstart training.

Community First Responders

Community First Responders

Community First Responders are groups of volunteers who live and work in the local community.

They are trained and activated by North West Ambulance Service to attend certain emergency calls where time can make the difference between life and death.  The responder provides care until the Ambulance arrives, usually only a few minutes later.

Very often the role they play is one of reassurance.  In instances where someone has chest pains, simply giving them oxygen can make a big difference.  In extreme cases they can perform CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) or in extreme cases use the defibrillator to restart someone’s heart.

Each volunteer takes it in turn to be ‘on call’.  They carry basic First Aid equipment and a simple to use Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

The Ambulance Service controller sends them to Category A (immediately life threatening) medical calls; they are dispatched at the same time as the ambulance crews but because they are often in more rural areas, can often arrive more quickly than the ambulance.

The scheme can be incredibly rewarding as responders could well end up saving someone’s life.  Many villages where schemes exist show great community spirit knowing that there are people there who could be lifesavers.

Anyone who lives or works in the North West can get involved with the scheme, whether it’s to be a First Responder, or to help with other vital tasks such as fund-raising, support or administration.  Volunteers do not need previous first aid experience to join their local group, as full training will be provided.

If you would like to set up a First Responder scheme in your community, or join an existing scheme, then please visit, or contact one of the numbers below:

Cumbria & Lancashire: Mark Evans,  Lancashire CFR Office, 449-451 Garstang Road, Broughton, Preston, Lancashire, PR3 5LN. Tel: 01772 903989. email:;

Cheshire & Merseyside: Janet Graham, Merseyside, Elm House, Belmont Grove, Anfield, L6 4EG; email: Greater Manchester: David McNally, Manchester CFR Office, Whitefield HQ, Bury Old Road, Whitefield, Manchester, M45 6AQ; Tel 0161 279 4800; email: