Changes to our first aid training and guidance

Written by Anna Bishop
Jul 12, 2021

Anna is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

The British Red Cross, together with St John Ambulance and St Andrew’s First Aid co-author the First Aid Manual, which is published by Dorling Kindersley (DK). A new manual is being published on 5th July 2021 which contains updated first aid guidance on some existing skills, as well as new sections covering mental health, sepsis and how to deliver safe first aid during a pandemic and update of major incidents including acts of terrorism.

The updated first aid guidance contained within the manual, and across all of our products, is based on a review of new first aid science. Recently updated recommendations for treatment were released by ILCOR (International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation) and then developed into standards and guidelines by the European Resuscitation Council. These updated guidelines form the foundation for the updated advice contained within the first aid manual and used by training providers throughout the UK and Europe.

As a leading and trusted provider of first aid, we have diligently worked through all of our resources to ensure everything is updated and in line with the new manual and science.

Whilst the first aid manual is an invaluable resource outlining how to recognise and treat a whole host of emergency first aid situations, the British Red Cross’ own resources incorporate educational research as well to ensure all learners interacting with our first aid content, such as our apps, website and training courses not only obtain the first aid skills they need to help but are also confident and willing to act in a first aid emergency.


How often does the manual get updated?

Usually, the first aid manual receives a full update every 5 years; this aligns with the release of the updated guidelines from ILCOR.

We are continually reviewing our expert advice and training to ensure we have the most up to date information available for work, home and in schools across all of our resources. This means there may be occasions where a revised manual is released to reflect updated science or research.

What first aid advice is being changed?

Updated first aid skills include asthma, burns, head injury, bleeding and heat stroke.

From training courses to webpages and apps; we’ve updated all of our resources to ensure that they all reflect the latest guidelines.

How do you decide what to change?

Last year updated first aid science was released by ILCOR (International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation) and developed into science by the European Resuscitation Council.

These guidelines then informed the first aid manual alongside literature reviews and research carried out by the three organisations that co-author the manual (St Andrew’s First Aid, St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross).

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are considered as international standard setters for first aid education as we work so closely with the science to review and contribute to the evidence base.

The British Red Cross has been supporting people to learn lifesaving first aid since its formation in 1870.

Asthma: what is the latest guidance?

AsthmaThe latest guidance is that any person having an asthma attack should use their inhaler by taking 1-2 puffs every 30-60 seconds up to a maximum of 10 puffs or following the advice in their personal asthma plan.

How to help someone who is having an asthma attack.

1) Help the person sit in a comfortable position and take their inhaler

When someone has an asthma attack, their airways narrow, making it difficult for them to breathe. An inhaler relaxes the muscles, allowing the airways to expand and ease their breathing.

2) Reassure the person. If the attack becomes severe, or they don't have their inhaler, call 999 as soon as possible.

3) A mild attack should ease within a few minutes. Call 999 if the attack lasts longer than that, they don’t have their inhaler or their inhaler has no effect.

Do not leave them, in case the attack becomes severe quickly. If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it.


Bleeding: what is the latest guidance?

BleedingThe latest guidance is that someone who is bleeding heavily should lay down and apply pressure to the wound until bleeding stops or is controlled.


How to help someone who is bleeding heavily.

1) If someone is bleeding heavily, lay the person down and apply direct pressure to the wound and increase this pressure until bleeding stops or is controlled. Once controlled apply a bandage.

2) If bleeding continues and a bandage has been applied, remove the bandage and apply direct pressure to the wound again.

3) Call 999 as soon as possible.


Burns: what is the latest guidance?

BurnsThe latest science says that all types of burns should be cooled for at least 20 minutes.


How to help someone who has a burn.

1) Cool the burn under cold running water for at least 20 minutes.

Cooling the burn will reduce pain, swelling and the risk of scarring. The sooner and longer a burn is cooled with cold running water, the less the impact of the injury.

2) After the burn has been cooled, cover it with cling film or a clean plastic bag.

This helps prevent infection by keeping the area clean. Cling film or plastic won’t stick to the burn and will reduce pain by keeping air from the skin’s surface.

3) Call 999 if necessary.

If you can't call 999 get someone else to do it. The burn may need urgent medical treatment. If you’re in any doubt, seek medical advice and always seek medical advice for a baby or child who has been burned. "


Head injury: what is the latest guidance?

Head-injuryThe advice is now that a cold compress should be applied for no more than 20 minutes.

How to help someone who has a head injury.

1) Ask them to rest and apply something cold to the injury for up to 20 minutes - for example, frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel.

Applying something cold to the injury for up to 20 minutes will reduce external swelling and pain. When a person has a blow to the head, their brain can also be shaken inside the skull. This may cause a more serious head injury which may make them feel sick or drowsy.

2) Call 999 if they become drowsy, repeatedly vomit or their condition gets worse.

This could be a sign of a serious injury to the head. If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it.

3) Make sure someone responsible is able to look after them.

If the injury has happened when playing sports, they must not return to sport until they have been seen by a medical professional.

Have all your resources been updated?

All of our first aid resources have been updated with the latest guidance. There are many different ways you can learn first aid, on our website through our apps or by booking a Red Cross Training course.

Do I need to renew my training because of these changes?

No, if you have attended a course that is certificated such as First aid at Work or Paediatric First aid course you should continue to use the training you have been given. The new changes will be incorporated into your training course when you normally renew your certificate.

It may be useful for you to book to attend an annual update course as recommended in the Health and Safety (first aid) regulations 1981.

If you have learnt first aid for personal use and are not required to hold a first aid certificate you can update your skills using our online resources found, attending one of our public courses or by downloading our app.

Where can I buy a new manual?

You can buy a copy from most major bookshops or online stores from 5 July 2021.

Everyone who attends one of our first aid at work training courses will receive a new first aid manual. However, if you wish to buy a copy you can find them in most major bookshops or online stores.

What if I forget the new guidelines or get it wrong?

As always, doing something is better than doing nothing, even if it is simply calling for an ambulance if someone is seriously hurt or unwell. Our first aid advice is designed to have the very best positive impact on someone in an emergency situation.

You can test your knowledge of the changes with our quiz.

How has Covid-19 impacted first aid advice?

If you would be using first aid on your family or friends, see our guidance for helpful tips on how to make first aid as safe as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you are required to hold a first aid certificate for use at work, our first aid blogs will help guide you on ways to protect yourself when performing first aid during Covid-19 and changes to first aid training courses during Covid-19.

Any change can be daunting and can make you feel less confident in the skills you have. First aid training with a reputable provider such as The British Red Cross can ensure you have all the information you need to act in a first aid emergency confidently. Find out more about the courses we offer and what would be the best fit for you or your workplace.

Try our first aid course finder

Topics: First Aid

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