Background: Less than 1% of the general public know how to assess or manage someone who has collapsed. It has been estimated that if 15-20% of the population were capable of performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mortality of out of hospital cardiac arrest could be decreased significantly. Training basic life support (BLS) skills to school children would be the most cost effective way of achieving this goal and ensuring that a large proportion of the population acquire basic life saving skills. Aims: To assess retention of knowledge of basic life support 6 months after a single course of instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation designed specifically for school children. Setting: School pupils in a rural location in one region of the United Kingdom. Methods: A course of instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation - the 'ABC for life' programme - specifically designed to teach 10-12-year-old school children basic life support skills. The training session was given to school pupils in a rural location in Northern Ireland. A 22 point questionnaire was used to assess acquisition and retention of basic life support knowledge. Results: Children instructed in cardiopulmonary resuscitation showed a highly significant increase in level of knowledge following the training session. While their level of knowledge decreased over a period of 6 months it remained significantly higher than that of a comparable group of children who had never been trained. Conclusion: A training programme designed and taught as part of the school curriculum would have a significant impact on public health. © 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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