It’s no secret that the emergency services are often abused. Just think back to the recent KFC crisis when the company decided to change suppliers and subsequently somehow managed to run out of chicken. A pretty big problem for them as their whole business depends on a constant supply of chicken. Understandably, many people were left disappointed upon discovering that they weren’t going to be walking out with tummies full of their favourite popcorn chicken or spicy chicken wrap. Many of us wouldn’t see this to be a serious life or death situation and choose to get something to eat elsewhere, but for a minority, it was enough to call the police over. 
Hardly the best use of 999 but alas, abuse of the emergency number does happen all too often, especially when it comes to people looking for an ambulance. 
Every so often, the ambulance service release audio of timewasting 999 calls and they’re over things you can really only shake your head over. A bloke in Cardiff wanted paramedics to pop over to his house to check him over after indulging in enough chocolate to make him feel physically sick. A woman called up over a dog bite she’d received over a month ago. Another man had an ingrown toenail. All potentially painful afflictions, but none in need of emergency treatment and urgent transport to A&E.
It’s because of people like this that our waiting rooms are full and why so many health trusts are being lambasted for not being able to stick to the four-hour target for patients to be treated and either discharged or admitted. When you’ve all and sundry turning up with things that really could be dealt with elsewhere, there’s not a hope that they’re all going to be dealt with on time. 
As the late winter pressures have finally ceased, they are soon to be replaced with a whole new range of problems. With the summer sun trying its best to make a showing, there’ll soon be a wave of people turning up with sunburn, heatstroke and with all kinds of injuries that have happened courtesy of overconfidence in the garden. Don’t get me wrong: some of these maladies will need urgent medical attention but there will be many that could be treated without hours of waiting to see someone who only wishes they could have a chance to enjoy the sun.
According to a recent survey, 95 per cent of UK adults admitted that they wouldn’t know how to administer essential first aid to someone who was unconscious or bleeding heavily. Such knowledge could be the difference between someone living or dying so it’s a pretty startling statistic. It just illustrates that the big problem here is that too many people don’t know what to do to help themselves when something goes wrong. 
So it would only make sense to start including first aid as a compulsory part of the school curriculum. As it stands, more than half of children go through school without any training in first aid at all. It makes very little sense as I doubt there are many children who can make it to eighteen without having to receive some first aid themselves. Between falling in the playground, getting hit in the face by a rogue football or getting whacked across the shins with a hockey stick, there are plenty of reasons for training. 
It’s not something unreasonable: we’ve all heard of the youngsters who’ve managed to phone for an ambulance after a parent has fallen down the stairs or is having problems with a pre-existing medical condition. An adult’s first reaction in those circumstances would be to panic but these kids are as calm as can be, passing over information as if they were talking about a cartoon they’d been watching. 
I’d be curious to see if putting out appeals asking people not to come up to A&E unless it’s essential during extremely busy times are actually effective. If you think you need to be seen immediately by a doctor, then a radio bulletin or Facebook post isn’t going to change that. I’d imagine that it would actually be counterproductive in some cases, as you hear so many stories of elderly patients or those who are genuinely sick saying that they didn’t think things were bad enough or that they didn’t want to be a bother. It’s those people who see that A&E is busy and so avoid it, but really they’re the people who need to be there. 
These posts are aimed at those who could be treated with first aid or at least assessed before going to hospital. Not every painful wrist or ankle is going to need a cast so knowing the obvious differences between a break and a sprain is going to be pretty useful. Or knowing to put pressure on a wound to help it stop bleeding will show whether it’s something serious that may need stitches or something that a plaster could sort out. 
For young children, these are the lessons they should be taught from an early age and it could easily be incorporated into PE lessons where most accidents occur or even an hour set aside once a term dedicated to teaching basic skills. The great thing about first aid is that it can be very hands on and involved so even the youngest pupils can learn a life saving skill while having fun with their friends. Have you ever seen a bunch of kids trying to figure out how to tie a sling or bandage a head? It’s the most wholesome fun you an imagine. So much fun in fact that you soon forget that you’re actually learning. 
Then as they get older, it would be easy to incorporate first aid into the personal development aspect of the curriculum. If schools can set aside a whole day for Sports Day then finding a couple of hours throughout the year shouldn’t be difficult. It’s here that students could learn to deal with those events that require split second reactions and real help as soon as possible. Here it would be things like teaching CPR, how to help someone who is choking and more complex injuries. 
We all know that teenagers like to push the boundaries and so if they’re doing something that they shouldn’t be and then it all goes pear shaped, they’re less likely to tell their parents or seek help. At this age, they should be being taught about treating alcohol poisoning or common drink-induced injuries because while 18 may be the legal age but there are plenty who don’t wait until that golden birthday. They should be taught about what to do if they’re in an accident and the circumstances of when someone who is injured should not be moved. These are young adults who are going to be in potentially dangerous situations and should be as prepared as possible for them.   
There’s currently a governmental review ongoing as to whether or not the teaching of first aid should become compulsory in schools and I really hope that it does. Even if the skills aren’t used, they’ll be recalled for years after and in the meantime, children will feel more confident in themselves because they’ll know that they have the power to make a difference in someone’s life. It’ll also help take away a lot of the fear that comes when you see someone injured. A five-year-old who knows how to deal with a nosebleed will be a lot calmer than one who hasn’t got a clue and just sees blood and panics. 
Even if the government decides not to add to the current curriculum, I think schools need to take responsibility for it themselves sooner rather than later. School is about setting you up for adulthood, not just for passing nationalised examinations. Your time in school shapes you as a person. You make mistakes there and learn from them and hopefully learn lessons from those who have come before to help you avoid making those mistakes. Making sure every single person has a working knowledge of first aid will help keep society flowing and hopefully keep A&E for the real emergencies.