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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:14 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Julie Cooper Julie Cooper Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) (Community Health) 3:14 pm, 3rd April 2019

That is an important point. I have been on the receiving end of that with a family member, waiting for an ambulance and listening to instructions. Nevertheless, I appreciate that having the confidence to follow those instructions, particularly with a young child, might go a little beyond that.

This is about re-teaching people about what they think they know. There is a lot of so-called knowledge out there among people who think they know first aid, but that is often based on what they have seen in the media, which sometimes puts style before substance. In fact, procedures shown for dramatic effect often bear little resemblance to safe first aid. Furthermore, carrying out procedures without proper training might do more harm than good. First aid for babies is also vastly different from first aid for adults and other young children. Such important matters should be regarded as key parenting skills.

All parents, irrespective of their ability to pay, should have access to high-quality first aid training as a priority. Access to first aid training is about more than skills; it is also about building confidence and resilience. The British Red Cross surveyed a group of people it had trained in first aid, and asked whether they felt the training had contributed to their personal wellbeing. Three quarters of the respondents said it had made them more capable and more reliable in an emergency, and half said it had made them more determined and better at finding their way out of difficult situations.

Ahead of this debate, the British Red Cross shared with me the case of Leanne, a young mum from Swindon. When her baby, Maia, was six months old, Leanne took a baby first aid course with the British Red Cross. When Maia was 18 months old, she had a febrile seizure. Using knowledge from her first aid course, Leanne was able to save Maia’s life by instantly recognising the signs, taking steps to cool her down by removing her blanket, and placing her on the floor so that she did not injure herself during the seizure. After the seizure was over, Leanne further reduced Maia’s temperature by stripping her down to her vest, and she placed her in the infant recovery position. Leanne’s quick thinking saved Maia’s life before the paramedics arrived, and Maia is back to her playful, happy self. Leanne was able to do that only because she recognised the signs of a febrile seizure from her baby and child first aid course.

A seizure can be a terrifying and violent event for a parent to witness, especially when they do not understand what is happening. Febrile seizures are not unusual in babies and children between the ages of six months and three years. However, the Red Cross reports that, when questioned, 66% of parents had not been taught to recognise a febrile seizure, and 65% did not even know what one was. The baby and first aid course gave Leanne the knowledge and skills to act, but most importantly it also gave her the confidence. She said:

“I’m grateful that I had attended a baby and child first aid course which meant I knew what to look out for and how to deal with a febrile seizure.”

Because of her first aid knowledge, she felt calm and able to act for her daughter.

We have heard many examples of such events, and we are grateful to Dr Johnson for sharing her expertise. People in the wider public often talk about MPs living in a bubble or ivory tower, but the hon. Lady’s expert and practical knowledge demonstrates yet again that Members of Parliament are in touch and know what is happening out there. As John Howell said, it is right and proper to use our position to spread that knowledge and champion causes such as this.

In 2014, Mumsnet sponsored 20 mums to take part in British Red Cross baby and infant first aid training. All the mums rated the training highly, and one said:

“I really enjoyed the course as every single thing discussed could easily relate to me and my children. All the videos of real-life scenarios really brought it home how easily these things could happen, but now I feel confident and that I could make a real difference to the outcome, and would feel so much more knowledgeable on what to do in an emergency situation.”

As we have heard, there are many different providers of first aid training for parents of infants. I specifically mentioned the British Red Cross, and other hon. Members have mentioned St John Ambulance, which offers first aid courses designed specifically for babies and children. There are also local providers, such as the one championed by the hon. Member for Truro and Falmouth. In addition, the NHS provides an online app to support parents with first aid for their infants. One parent said:

“Although you could read everything on the app and watch the videos for free, I think doing it in a class environment really makes you take it all in. It will also make you feel more confident if you were ever to need to help someone or your own child.”

As the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care often reminds us, technology in the NHS is helpful, but it is not a substitute for services delivered by real people. In terms of first aid provision for parents, such apps can be useful to reinforce training given in a class setting, but they should not be seen as a substitute.