CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

TEACHING LIFE-SAVING SKILLS IN SCHOOL – 22 November 2012

Dr Julian Lewis: In making a brief contribution, I shall carry on where the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) left off – with how a piece of music can save a life. She is so right. In a slightly different context, I remember listening to a radio interview with the wife of the great violinist, Yehudi Menuhin. She said she was always terribly worried when her husband played Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and when it got to a certain bit – when she knew the end was nigh – she used to sing to herself: “Thank God it’s over, thank God it’s over”. That has ruined Beethoven’s Violin Concerto for me ever since, because I have never been able to get it out of my mind.

Reading the briefing, I did indeed see that, “Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive” is apparently the rhythm that should be followed when administering CPR. I read that in the context of a report from the Daily Mail on 10 January, helpfully included by the Library in the debate pack. In it Dr Rob Galloway told the story of the Rector of St Nicholas Church in Sevenoaks, Angus MacLeay, who collapsed at the age of 51 and died – but his son and his friend had been told how to administer CPR. The report read:

“Although they had only a few hours’ training, it’s all they needed to know instinctively what to do. They took it in turns, pushing down on the chest in a continuous cycle”

that the experts say should, indeed, follow the rhythm of that famous Bee Gees song. Two weeks later he was back at home, having died and been saved by his son.

Julie Hilling: It also works if the person sings “Nellie the Elephant” – for those of us who are more musically challenged or who cannot remember “Stayin’ Alive” – although it has to be a fast version.

Dr Lewis: I look forward to the hon. Lady’s rendition when she speaks – very shortly, I hope – and I pay tribute to her, to my hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) and to other hon. Members. I was particularly touched by the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson), when he said what happened to him and his late father.

My own background in this subject is slight. I have been involved with organisations such as Cardiac Risk in the Young, which campaigns to have young people screened for heart defects that otherwise no one would know were present, and with the battle to save the children’s heart hospital at Southampton General Hospital, which is one of the best in the country and fortunately will not now be reorganised out of existence.

My immediate incentive for coming to today’s debate was a letter I received from my constituent Natasha Jones, who lives in Brockenhurst, who has set up an organisation called Baby Resuscitation. During the summer of 2010, she experienced an episode with her 11-week-old daughter of what is known as near-miss cot death, when her baby stopped breathing and was drifting in and out of consciousness. At the time, my constituent had no resuscitation training. It was only her maternal instincts that succeeded in keeping her baby alive until professional arrived.

As in the case of so many others, including my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon, the experience motivated my constituent, spurring her on to do something to ensure that the availability of skill would not be hit and miss in future. That is why she set up the Baby Resuscitation scheme, which is over-subscribed and to which parents go to get the skills they need. The point she makes to me is how much more vitally helpful and productive it would be if children had to learn such skills at school.

I know many people want to speak. This seems to me such an obviously admirable cause that I do not need to say anything more, other than that I wholeheartedly support it and I look to Minister to give the campaign the encouragement and endorsement that it clearly deserves.