Free first aid course to help you save a life

Would you know how to help someone having a medical emergency?

Someone has a heart attack every five minutes. One in five of us will witness someone needing CPR after collapsing. But most people don’t act on it.

Only 30 percent of people receive bystander CPR. That hesitancy is often because of no first aid training, lack of confidence, or fear of making the situation worse.

But every minute is vital in ensuring survival. Around 90 percent of people who have a heart attack out of hospital will die; immediate CPR can double or even quadruple survival rates.

First aid is a skill that everyone should learn. In a bid to ensure there is a first aider on every street, the Community Save a Life Scheme (CSALS) offers free first aid courses to the public.

You can complete the course online in around an hour. Around 12,000 people have already done the course, as far away as America, Australia, Indian and Vietnam.

In the summer, taking the course paid off for one man in Dronfield who saved the life of his walking football teammate. When 75-year-old Mel Pullen collapsed on the pitch, Rob Church stepped in to perform CPR, having passed the CSALS course just weeks earlier. Despite being unconscious for 11 minutes, Mel survived thanks to Rob’s skills and effort in resuscitation.

Hearing lives have been saved is the motivation to keep going for John Hutchinson and Dr Cheryle Berry MBE who instigated the idea of the charity in 2010. Having met while volunteering at St John Ambulance Service, the duo initially worked under the British Heart Foundation name but are now a standalone charity.

Lead trainer John, originally from Sheffield but now living in the Peak District, was a St John Ambulance cadet in his youth. He joined the army at 16 where he led the annual first aid course throughout his 26-year service. He then joined the army’s prison and probation service where he delivered first aid training to inmates and staff. After retirement, John dedicated his time to St John Ambulance as a volunteer and has trained all the community first responders in Derbyshire and East Midlands.

Charity chair Cheryle had seen a long career in education, first as a head teacher before becoming director of education in Middlesborough and then Lincolnshire. She is also the chair of St John Ambulance Derbyshire.

They are joined by a team of trustees that include a retired GP, a paramedic, a retired management accountant, and staff from the British Heart Foundation.

Chesterfield FC’s Laurence Maguire with his CSALS certificate

CSALS set a Guinness World Record in 2016 for the largest first aid lesson; 1,795 people took to the pitch at Chesterfield FC’s home ground as John led the training session.

In 2018, CSALS launched their online course at Westminster that had kindly been developed for free by Ilkley-based Virtual College. Having this digital training programme means that the charity has been able to reach out to people across the country and indeed on a global basis.

There are five sections to complete, with a mix of interactive quizzes and timed elements. There is also the option for commentary or self-led reading. You’ll learn how to perform the gold standard of CPR which is mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions. The course also looks at the correct way to put a person in the recovery position and use a defibrillator. Once finished, you can print off a certificate of your achievement.

Its easy-to-use format suits any style and standard of learning. Children as young as ten have completed the course and John says the team are hoping to work with education providers to offer the course to students and their families.

Another success story is that of a 14-year-old boy who saved his dad’s life after he collapsed playing squash. John says the charity still has a letter from the boy’s mum thanking them for the course, without which her husband wouldn’t be here today.

John also delivers practical courses in-person to groups of six or more in return for a donation to their charity. In this two-hour, video-led course, he teaches various situations where first aid may be needed such as bleeding, choking and stroke.

Even if you have already completed a formal first aid course, it’s important to keep refreshing your skills. Skill erosion is a major issue in CPR.

This season, they are also a charity partner for Sheffield United FC, John’s lifelong club, and have delivered first aid training to the club’s community foundation.

Companies can also show their support for the charity by joining their 999 Appeal. For a donation of £999, businesses are eligible for a practical course for 12 people which they can use for their staff or gift it to another organisation.

For more information about CSALS, visit

To take the free online course, visit

To find out more about the 999 Appeal, email community facilitator, Debra Johnson