Choosing a first aid training provider: A competency evaluation checklist

Written by Anna Bishop
Mar 5, 2021

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

With so many first aid training providers in the UK, it can be challenging to know who to select. But the variety of providers and course options means you are able to make a choice that not only meets but maybe even exceeds, your needs.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) doesn’t vet, check or approve training providers or courses for you. The onus is on you to perform your own due diligence and ensure that the course and how it’s delivered, meets the standards outlined by the HSE and, most importantly, your needs.

To help make your due diligence process easier, in this blog we give a brief overview of:

  • the different first aid training options available to choose from
  • what you need to consider with blended learning
  • the five due diligence checks you need to carry out
  • a checklist of the due diligence questions you should ask.

(This blog gives a broad overview of what you should do when carrying out due diligence. For more details on the various training options available and blended learning requirements, along with an at-a-glance comparison checklist that includes recommended checks as well as essential ones, see our guide: Selecting a first-aid training provider.)

The different workplace first aid training options available

The HSE offers you flexibility as an employer to choose the course and training provider that best suits your needs. You can choose from a range of different external providers, or even opt for in-house training, The options include:

  • The Voluntary Aid Societies (VAS): British Red Cross, St John Ambulance and St Andrew’s First Aid. (The HSE recognises the VAS as the standard setters for currently accepted first-aid practice.)
  • Training providers offering courses certificated by an 'awarding organisation' (AO).
  • Providers operating under voluntary accreditation schemes (such as a trade or industry body).
  • Providers that operate independently of any accreditation scheme.
  • In-house training

The HSE doesn't allow first aid courses to be taught exclusively online due to the practical, hands-on nature of many of the skills taught, but they do allow you to choose a blended learning option. (See s.62 of the HSE’s Guidance).

Whatever approach you select, you need to ensure that you carry out the right due diligence.

(See ss.60-67 of the HSE’s First aid at work: The Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981. Guidance on Regulations L74 (“the HSE’s Guidance”)).


Due diligence checks

You must ensure that your chosen training provider meets the HSE’s criteria in five key areas. These are set out in their guidance: Selecting a first aid training provider: A guide for employers” (GEI63). You need to check that any training provider:

  • has suitably qualified trainers and assessors
  • operates effective quality assurance procedures
  • teaches currently accepted first aid practice
  • provides a suitable training syllabus that meets your needs
  • issues compliant first aid certificates

The HSE gives further guidance on what you need to look at when performing your due diligence in each area, which we have summarised below.


The HSE specifies that all trainers and assessors must hold a First Aid at Work (FAW) certificate unless they are exempt from doing so because of prior medical training as a doctor, nurse or paramedic. (Exemptions aren’t automatic because licenses/registration and first aid skills must be relevant and suitable.) Assessors also need to hold a relevant training qualification.

You should check how often training and skills updates for first aid trainers and assessors are carried out, how that training is delivered and if they take steps to develop their staff further.

(We provide the full list of relevant qualifications and further questions you should ask in our guide: Selecting a First Aid Training Provider.)

Quality Assurance

Training providers should have a documented quality assurance plan where an individual is responsible for quality assurance. The plan should ensure that trainers and assessors’ performance is assessed at least annually and include a course evaluation and complaints procedure.

External quality assurance accreditation demonstrates that providers are meeting the minimum standards required by the HSE. This could be through a regulated awarding organisation or alternatives, such as ISO 9001, which is the most widely used and accepted quality management standard in the world.

Teaching currently accepted first-aid practice

Any First Aid at Work (FAW) or Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW) course should follow currently accepted first-aid practice:
  • Adult basic life support: This should follow the guidelines published by the Resuscitation Council (UK)
  • Other aspects of first aid: This should follow the current guidelines published by the Voluntary Aid Societies (e.g. British Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance and Saint Andrews)

Providers can follow other published guidelines if they are supported by a responsible body of medical opinion but this does make your due diligence much more difficult as protocols for first aid can vary.

The guidelines are updated regularly but there is always new research and science that informs best practice You should therefore check how often they review their course materials and what sources they use to do so


Suitable training syllabus

It’s important to check if the course content and how it's delivered meets the needs of your workplace and individual learners' needs. (Note: Practical elements such as CPR can only realistically be taught face-to-face.)

The HSE sets minimum training hours for the FAW and EFAW courses to ensure that the topics are taught properly (FAW: 18 hours over three days, EFAW: 6 hours over one day). If a provider offers additional topics, then they should allow extra time to do so. You should also check what ongoing support they offer to guard against skills fade.

If you do opt for blended learning for first aid training, then you must conduct further due diligence checks to ensure that it is suitable (s.62 of the Guidance). The HSE emphasises that you should ensure that “sufficient time is allocated to classroom-based learning and assessment of the practical elements of the syllabus”. They also strongly recommend that learners are observed to ensure they are competent in any skills, especially those that are practical in nature e.g. CPR.

Find out more about online and blended learning for first aid training here: Are first aiders qualified if they do an online first aid course?

Valid certificate

Training organisations should only issue certificates to learners that they have assessed as competent. Learners must demonstrate satisfactory knowledge, skill and understanding in all aspects of the training course.

Certificates must include particular statements to ensure that they are compliant. (The full list and an example certificate is included in our guide: Selecting a First Aid Training Provider.)

A quick first aid training provider checklist

We’ve provided a list of questions below to help you check any training provider meets the minimum requirements set by the HSE.

There are further aspects you should check to ensure that you are making the best choice for your organisation. We set out some further recommended questions that will help you do so in our guide, Selecting a First Aid Training Provider.


  • Do the trainers/assessors hold a current First Aid at Work Certificate?
  • Do they qualify for an exemption? If so are their licences/registrations and skills current and relevant?
  • Do they hold a relevant Trainers/Assessor’s qualification?

Quality Assurance

  • Is there a documented quality assurance plan?
  • Does an independent body with no vested interest audit the plan?
  • Are trainers and assessors assessed annually as a minimum?
  • Does the designated person have a First Aid at Work certificate or qualify for an exemption? Do they have the required assessing/verifying qualification?

Teaching currently accepted first-aid practice

  • Are they teaching currently accepted first-aid practice?
  • If not, does their teaching follow other published guidelines supported by a responsible body of medical opinion?

    Suitable training syllabus

  • Does it meet your first aid needs assessment for your workplace and individual learners' needs?
  • Do the EFAW, FAW and requalification courses meet the HSE’s recommended topics and hours?
  • How do they teach practical elements of the course?

If selecting blended learning, you should also check:

  • Does the learner know how to use the technology that delivers the training?
  • Can the training provider adequately support the individual during their training?
  • Does the training provider have a robust system in place to prevent identity fraud
  • Is sufficient time allocated to classroom-based learning and assessment of the practical elements of the syllabus?
  • Does the provider have an appropriate means of assessing the e-learning component of the training?

Valid certificate

  • Does the training provider only issue certificates to those deemed competent?
  • Does the certificate contain everything the HSE requires?


How The Red Cross meets and exceeds first-aid training provider requirements

The Red Cross is one of the three Voluntary Aid Societies (VAS). The HSE recognises the VAS as the standard setters for currently accepted first-aid practice. The VAS also produce the First Aid Manual – the UK’s only comprehensive guide to treating casualties in first aid emergencies.

The British Red Cross also form part of the First Aid Quality Partnership (FAQP), alongside other leading experts in the field. The FAQP publishes recommended quality assurance standards for all training providers to follow (and is observed by the HSE).

The British Red Cross has been delivering first aid at work courses for more than 30 years and has an enviable reputation for quality and excellence. We hold ISO:9001 2015 quality management accreditation, demonstrating the quality of service and training you can expect to receive when choosing the Red Cross.

We are committed to providing a quality learning experience above and beyond your expectations. This is how we manage to achieve a Net Promoter score of 9+ approximately 90% of the time and why we have such a high retention rate - with 86.7% of our learners from existing customer organisations. We are the only UK training organisation to offer a unique, free online support programme after completion of your course to keep your first aiders updated, confident and willing to act.

Final thoughts

While this blog provides a comprehensive overview of the checks you need to carry out when selecting a first aid training provider, it’s important to remember that meeting the due diligence criteria should just be the beginning of your checks.

In our guide, Selecting a first aid training provider, we’ve summarised the checks the HSE requires you to carry out, followed by a handy checklist of required and recommended checks in an at-a-glance format for each competency area to help you easily compare training providers.

We also provide more information on the different types of training providers available and what you need to know about blended learning.

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Topics: First Aid

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