First aid treatment for an unresponsive casualty

The critical importance of unresponsive and not breathing first aid: Saving lives with swift action

Imagine a scenario where someone suddenly collapses and stops breathing. Would you know what to do? Every second counts in such situations. In this blog, Rose delves into the crucial aspects of administering first aid for unresponsive individuals who are not breathing. By understanding the steps and protocols outlined here, you can become equipped to potentially save a life.

Key facts and statistics

  • Every year, thousands of lives are saved globally by prompt first aid interventions.
  • In the UK alone, approximately 60,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually, according to the British Heart Foundation.
  • Only one in ten people survive a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting in the UK, highlighting the urgency for effective first aid response.

Key definitions

  • Unresponsive - A person who is unconscious and not responsive to stimuli.
  • Not breathing - Absence of chest rise and fall, indicating a cessation of breathing.

Relevant legislation, regulations, and best practice

  • Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 - Employers are legally obligated to provide adequate first aid provisions in the workplace.
  • Resuscitation Council UK guideline - These guidelines outline the latest evidence-based practices for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and emergency cardiovascular care.
  • European Resuscitation Council Guidelines - These guidelines offer comprehensive recommendations for first aid interventions, including those for unresponsive and non-breathing individuals.

Recognising unresponsiveness

  • Check for responsiveness by gently tapping the person and shouting their name.
  • If there is no response, shout for help and immediately call emergency services.

Assessing breathing

  • Open the airway using the head-tilt, chin-lift technique.
  • Look, listen, and feel for breathing for up to 10 seconds.

Initiating CPR

  • If the person is unresponsive and not breathing, commence CPR immediately.
  • Administer chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 per minute, interlaced with rescue breaths.
  • Follow the recommended compression-to-ventilation ratio (typically 30:2 for adults).

Using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

  • If an AED is available, attach it as soon as possible and follow the prompts for defibrillation.
  • Early defibrillation significantly increases the chances of survival in cardiac arrest cases.


  • Encourage individuals to undergo first aid training to equip themselves with life-saving skills.
  • Regularly review and refresh CPR and first aid knowledge to maintain proficiency.
  • Ensure workplaces and public spaces are equipped with accessible AEDs and trained personnel.


Unresponsive and not breathing situations demand swift and decisive action. By familiarising yourself with the steps outlined in this blog and staying informed about current best practices, you can play a pivotal role in potentially saving a life. Remember, every moment matters in the chain of survival.

Don't wait for an emergency to strike. Click here to enrol in our comprehensive first aid training courses and qualifications today and empower yourself to make a difference when it matters most.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always seek professional medical assistance in emergency situations.

About the author

Rose Mabiza

Rose has dedicated over 15 years to improving health and social care quality through practice, targeted education and training. Her extensive experience includes working with older adults, individuals with mental health conditions, and people with autism and learning disabilities.

Saving lives with swift action - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK

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