New plans to make basic first aid skills compulsory for children have been welcomed by a Cumbrian trainer.

Debbie Farrell, a mother-of-four from Cockermouth, already runs sessions for children and is keen to see them become more commonplace.

The former Army medic turned physiotherapist is also a medical tutor for the Football Association (FA), where she works with youngsters involved in sport.

But recently she has been working to grow her Mini Medics courses, which see her take first training into schools to help children of all ages learn basic life-saving techniques.

She explained how hearing one man’s tragic story made her realise just how important it can be.

“This guy is now an adult, but when he was six he was walking in the Lake District with his dad, just the two of them. His dad had a cardiac arrest and he didn’t know how to help him,” said Debbie.

“At six years old he was trying to get down the mountain by himself to get help. By the time they got to his dad, it was too late.

“He said that experience had affected him his whole life. He wished he’d known what to do. Even if he couldn’t have saved him, if only he’d had some idea and could have felt as though he tried. He said to me I need to push this more, because it’s so important to give people that knowledge. Even children.”

National statistics show there are about 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the UK every year, but fewer than 10 per cent of these people survive.

Yet in countries where first aid is taught in schools, survival rates double.

It has now been announced by the Government that from 2020, all pupils will leave secondary school with a basic knowledge of first aid - including how to give Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if someone suffers a cardiac arrest, along with other key skills.

Announcing the measures, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “As a father, I want my children to have the knowledge and skills they need to keep themselves safe and help others.

“Learning the basic skills of first aid and techniques like CPR will give young people the confidence to know that they can step in to help someone else in need and in the most extreme cases – it could potentially save a life.”

Debbie welcomed the news, and said it can’t start soon enough.

She added that in many ways, more children than ever are in a situation where they might need to use first aid.

“The generation we live in means a lot of grandparents now look after children, some of them quite elderly. There are also more single carers looking after children.

“If something happens to that carer, the child needs to know what to do. Even if they just ring 999 and someone talks them through it, by doing a basic first aid course at least they will have practised it.

“It’s so important. And it’s not just older people who can take ill. It can happen at any age.”

Debbie added that Cumbria’s rurality can also be an issue.

“If you are in the middle of nowhere, it can take a long time for an ambulance to come. I phoned an ambulance once and it took over an hour to arrive.

“Having a bit of knowledge is better than nothing. It can be enough. Little things can make a big difference. Even just knowing when someone’s going into shock and what to do,” she said.

Her courses teach CPR but also how to use a heart-starting defibrilator machine - which Deborah says is one of the most valuable skills you can have.

Statistics show that using an AED (Automated External Defibrilator) increases the chances of survival from a cardiac arrest significantly. Although these machines are now available in many locations for emergency use, many feel daunted about using them because they don’t know how.

The machines come with clear, simple instructions, and a 999 call handler can instruct you if needed, but Debbie said that people are less likely to panic if they e practised with one previously.

The courses also look at other medical emergencies.

“It’s also things like putting bandages on. This is basic stuff but being able to stop a bleed can save someone’s life. Everyone should be taught those skills.

“I teach about choking, how to use an epi pen if someone is having an allergic reaction. It’s all basic but it can save a life,” she explained.

Debbie said her passion for first aid has been there since she was a child.

“I was in St John Ambulance when I was little. I was named first-aider of the year when I was 11. Now I have my own children I teach them what to do,” said Debbie, who has two younger children, aged eight and five, and two teenagers.

“I was a medic in the Army for five years. I worked in hospitals and was on tour in Bosnia. I’ve seen quite a lot of first aid situations there so I’ve learned a lot. Some people teach it but haven’t actually tested it. I’ve done it and I’ve lived it.”

Debbie came back into first aid through rugby league and football, working in the field as a physiotherapist. She now works for the FA as a medical tutor, as well as running her Pro Medical business.

She hopes the new Government directive will allow her to do more work in schools in future.

“The occupational work I do is great but I really want to push the first aid in schools. So many children are alone with an adult and I don’t want to find themselves in a situation that is going to affect the rest of their lives because they didn’t know what to do. It’s not fair to put them in that situation.

“All of the courses I’ve ran for children have been fantastic. They’ve all been so enthusiastic and really wanted to know what to do in an emergency. I’m really keen to do more,” she added.

To find out more about Debbie’s first aid courses email