Infant First Aid Training for Parents — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:47 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 2:47 pm, 3rd April 2019

Absolutely. One of the texts I was reading before I came to the debate was from my wife, who had had her weekly meeting with the health visitor this afternoon. That is something we can look at, and at the end of my remarks I will explain what I think we could do in Scotland and for other new parents in Moray.

Having not had the option or opportunity to do that training in antenatal classes, we looked at what first aid training was available in Moray for people with infants. During my research for this debate, I was notified that there were no classes at all in the Moray constituency; parents must travel to Aberdeen—a 70-mile journey each way. As I think my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth said, the classes cost about £40, which is not much for some but prohibitive for others. Those classes cost roughly £40 to £50 in Aberdeen, 70 miles away, or in Dundee, 150 miles away. I mentioned in a previous Westminster Hall debate the downgrading of our maternity services in Moray—I am fighting against that—and surely we must ensure that first aid classes for people with infants are available in a constituency the size of Moray, because we want to attract people to come here and set up their families. We must have everything possible available to them.

Since I did not take these classes, I looked at some of the things I could learn at them. My hon. Friend Dr Johnson, who will follow me, will give far more information, given her medical background; I look forward to listening to her. However, for example, I was fascinated to learn that, to treat a burn on an infant, the burn area must be put under cold water for 10 minutes and then covered with cling film. I think I could do the cling film bit, but keeping my 22-day-old baby under a cold water tap for 10 minutes would be challenging, given how difficult we have found bathtimes. I also noted that the best cure for any bumps was putting what we in Scotland call a cloot—frozen peas in a towel—on the bump. I therefore learnt a bit in preparation for the debate, which I hope provides reassurance that things are progressing.

Many more new parents would feel confident and more comfortable in the knowledge gained from such classes. It is not simply about not knowing but about a lack of confidence, as my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth said. We can have how we would do something in the back of our mind—we may have seen something we could try on television—but having the confidence that results from practising on dummies, as she mentioned, before having to take that step is important. Of course, we all hope we will never have to use that know-how.

I commend the Government’s proposal for health education to become compulsory in primary and secondary schools from September, requiring schools to teach first aid and life-saving skills. That is important because by the time a pupil leaves school they will have all the skills we are mentioning today, having been taught to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation as well as learning the purpose of a defibrillator and basic treatment for common injuries. In Scotland, I really back the “Save a life Scotland” strategy, which aims to equip 500,000 people in Scotland with CPR skills by 2020—that work to be done in primary and secondary schools with partner organisations the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Red Cross, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland and many others.

St John Ambulance states that when a child stops breathing, only one in four parents know what to do. When 82% of people feel it important to know first aid and 80% are interested in first aid, surely this is as good a time as any to include first aid training in a number of elements, whether antenatal classes or our national curriculum, so that people who lack knowledge and confidence have that built up, so that they know they are not doing something wrong if faced with a situation where they need to perform first aid.

One of the best sources of information for the debate was the “save a life” survey carried out by Mother and Baby magazine, which we have become regular subscribers to. It found that 62% of parents said that knowing first aid skills would make them feel more prepared for parenthood and 57% said they would leave an injured child until an ambulance arrived, which is wrong. If we learn basic first aid skills, we can assist a child in those cases. It also found that 55% of parents said they lacked the skills necessary to save their child in the event of a life-threatening accident and 72% of parents would not know how to assist an unconscious child with CPR, or even deal with burns or scolds. Only 19% of parents interviewed—less than one in five—had been on a first aid course in the previous five years. We should change that, and thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth having secured this debate, we can go forward on that.

In a number of years of marriage, I have found it is best to leave the final word to my wife. When I told her that I was to speak in this debate and what I was to say on training for new parents about infants, she said, “You don’t want to have to do it, but having the knowledge is reassuring.” That is how we should go forward. We should ensure that my wife, and all parents in Moray, in Scotland and across the UK, have that knowledge to save a child’s life if required, even if we never want them to have to use it.