Learn how to do CPR – a step-by-step guide

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Dr Rhianna McClymont, Lead GP, Livi
Sometimes the unexpected happens. And you need to act quickly. Here’s what you need to know about how to do CPR – and how you could potentially save a life.

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In the UK, over 30,000 people will have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital, where emergency medical services will attempt to resuscitate them. Just 1 in 10 people will survive.

CPR and access to defibrillators can double the chances of someone surviving – and this is why it’s so important for everyone to learn how to do CPR.

How to do CPR

The aim of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is to pump blood around the person's body when their heart has stopped beating. CPR needs to be started as soon as possible to give the best chance of survival.

  1. Call 999 or 112, or ask someone nearby to call for an ambulance. The operator will get you to check whether the person is definitely unconscious and not breathing, before talking you through the steps of how to do CPR.

  2. Make sure the person is lying on their back, tilt their head back, and check their airways are clear.

  3. Place the heel of one of your hands in the centre of their chest. Place your other hand on top, with your fingers interlocked.

  4. Push the chest down (about 5cm) and continue with a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. That’s about two per second. Giving chest compressions is hard work, so ask someone else to take over if you are exhausted.

  5. Continue to give CPR until the person is breathing on their own or until paramedics arrive. And if you can, ask someone nearby to find a defibrillator.

This website shows where your nearest defibrillator is in the UK. All defibrillators have clear instructions and can be used by anyone.

Is it safe to do CPR with COVID restrictions?

Before the outbreak of COVID, medical advice on how to do CPR included rescue breaths. Since then, there have been a few important changes - to keep everyone safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus – recommended by the Resuscitation Council UK

Their following advice summarises what has changed since the previous advice on how to do CPR.

  • Don't put your face close to theirs. If you think there's risk of infection, use a towel or a piece of clothing and lay it over their mouth and nose
  • Give chest compressions only - do not give rescue breaths
  • Continue with chest compressions until an ambulance arrives
  • After the ambulance crew have taken over, wash your hands thoroughly with soap or an alcohol based gel

Who can I talk to afterwards?

If you or someone you know has had a cardiac arrest, you might feel traumatised afterwards. Talking to a psychologist about your experience may help your recovery.

This may also be the case if you were with someone who had a cardiac arrest and you had to give them CPR. It often helps to talk to someone about your experience.

There might be a chance to talk through what happened with the ambulance staff or medical professionals.

How can Livi help?

The most important thing to do in a life or death situation is to call 999 immediately. And then start CPR if you can. If you or someone close to you has suffered a cardiac arrest and needs support, we can help.

A doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms and personal experience, then you may be prescribed treatment or referred for further care.

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