Basic Life Support (BLS)

When a patient has a cardiac arrest (heart stops beating), basic life support can be provided to help their chance of survival.  Essentially you are providing chest compressions to pump blood from the heart and around the body, ensuring the tissues and brain maintain an oxygen supply.

Basic life support is one of the most important skills you will learn at medical school. As such, you are likely to be examined on this station regularly so make sure you know it! Prior to 2010 BLS used to include the assessment of circulation by palpation of the carotid pulse. This is no longer part of the guidelines as it was felt it was more often than not incorrectly assessed.

Please see for the full up-to-date UK guidelines.

Subject steps

  1. You are likely to be presented with a resus mannequin and told that you have found the patient collapsed, either on a corridor in the hospital or somewhere outside. Either way, the algorithm to follow is fairly similar.

  2. Danger

    Initially you should assess if there is any danger in the situation either for you or for the patient.

  3. If breathing is absent you should call for the emergency services.

    This number is 999 in the UK, or typically 911 or 112 internationally (check and know your local number). From within the hospital, call the crash call number (commonly 2222, but again check for local differences).

  4. If there is anyone who can assist, you should share out the work. One of you should perform the breaths and the other the compressions, swapping when tired.

  5. You should continue this cycle of 2 rescue breaths and 30 chest compressions until either further help arrives, the patient regains consciousness, or you can no longer physically continue.