Basic Life Support (BLS) – Saving Lives

Basic Life Support

Basic life support is more commonly known as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and is actions performed on someone whose heart has stopped. The aim is to buy enough time until emergency services arrive. It can be performed by medical personnel and anyone who is qualified in First Aid.


Why is it so important?

BLS is critical in saving lives. It is extremely important in increasing the survival rate of people who have undergone cardiac arrest. Each year, ambulance services receive thousands of calls from suspected cardiac arrests. However, they are only able to perform resuscitation in about half of them at the most because the rest have expired due to not receiving bystander CPR.


So what do we do when we recognize someone who needs help?

  • Shake the patient and ask if they are OK. If the patient responds, keep an eye on them until the paramedics arrives
  • If no response, rub the middle hard part of the chest with your knuckle
  • If there is no further response, place the person on their back and open the airway using head tilt or jaw thrust manoeuvre, then quickly check if they are breathing. You can look for any chest movement, listen for any breathing sounds, or feel any air coming out of the nostrils or mouth. If there is no breath, call the emergency and start CPR at once.
  • Start PCR by placing hands over the centre of the chest (on the lower half of the breast bone), interlock your other hand and apply pressure to that spot.
  • Press down with your arms straight and push down with your body. After each compression, release all pressure from the chest while keeping your hands on the chest. Repeat at the rate of 100-120 per minute (so around 2 per second).
  • After 30 compressions: tilt head to open airway, pinch nose, then give 2 rescue breaths (1 second each, with not more than 10 seconds in between). If you don’t know how to do that then continue CPR.
  • If the patient starts to breathe, move or cough, put them on their side (recovery position)


Watch demonstration in this video.



Blom M, Beesems S, Homma P, Ziljlstra J, Hulleman M, van Hoeijen D et al. Improved Survival After Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest and Use of Automated External Defibrillators. Ciculation. 2014;130(21);1868-1875.


Perkins G, Lockey A, de Belder M, Moore F. Weissberg P, Gray H. National initiatives to improve outcomes from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in England. Emergency Medicine Journal. 2015;33(7);448-451.

Performing BLS skills correctly can deliver the care your community needs – when they need it most.