What is secondary survey in first aid?

Mastering the secondary survey: vital steps in first aid

Swift and effective action can be the difference between life and death in first aid. While the primary survey addresses immediate life-threatening issues, the secondary survey delves deeper, ensuring comprehensive assessment and appropriate care. In this blog, Rose explores the critical considerations surrounding the secondary survey, its significance, legal implications, and best practices.

Key facts and statistics

  • Secondary surveys contribute significantly to reducing mortality rates, especially in situations involving trauma or sudden illness.
  • Inadequate secondary assessments can lead to missed injuries or complications, prolonging recovery times and increasing morbidity.

Key definitions

  • Secondary survey - A systematic assessment conducted after the primary survey to identify less immediate, yet potentially serious injuries or conditions.
  • ABCDE approach - A mnemonic used to prioritise actions in both primary and secondary surveys, standing for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure.

Relevant legislation, regulations, and best practice

  • Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations 1981 - Employers are legally obligated to provide adequate first aid equipment, facilities, and personnel trained to perform first aid in the workplace.
  • Resuscitation Council (UK) Guidelines - Offers evidence-based recommendations for resuscitation and first aid procedures, including secondary assessments.
  • Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approved code of practice - Provides guidance on the provision of first aid equipment and training in the workplace.

The importance of a thorough secondary survey

  • Highlight the role of the secondary survey in identifying hidden injuries, ensuring proper treatment, and preventing complications.
  • Emphasise the need for systematic assessment and documentation to guide subsequent care.

Key steps in conducting a secondary survey

  • History taking - Gather information about the patient's medical history, mechanism of injury, and current symptoms.
  • Head-to-toe examination - Perform a thorough physical assessment, examining each body region for signs of injury or abnormalities.
  • Vital signs monitoring - Monitor vital signs such as pulse rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature to assess overall condition.
  • Special considerations - Address specific concerns based on the patient's age, medical history, and presenting symptoms.
  • Documentation - Record findings accurately to facilitate continuity of care and communication with healthcare professionals.


  • Encourage regular first aid training for individuals and workplace teams to enhance competency in primary and secondary assessments.
  • Advocate for the inclusion of secondary survey techniques in first aid certification courses, emphasising their significance in comprehensive patient care.


Mastering the secondary survey is indispensable for anyone involved in providing first aid. By understanding its importance, adhering to best practices, and staying abreast of relevant regulations, individuals can contribute to better outcomes in emergency situations. Let's equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills needed to make a difference when it matters most.

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Ready to enhance your first aid skills and make a positive impact? Click here to explore our comprehensive first aid training courses and qualifications today and take the first step towards becoming a proficient first responder. Empower yourselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct thorough secondary surveys and play a vital role in saving lives and promoting safety in our communities.

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.

Mastering the secondary survey: vital steps in first aid - ComplyPlus™ - The Mandatory Training Group UK -

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