You are on page 1of 3

History and trend

One hundred and fifty years ago, a battle in northern Italy sparked an idea that has
since changed the world. On 24 June 1859, Henry Dunant, a young Geneva
businessman, witnessed horrifying suffering and agony following the battle of
Solferino. He mobilized the civilian population, mainly women and girls, to care for
the wounded irrespective of their role in the conflict. He secured them with the
necessary materials and supplies and helped in the establishment of temporary
hospitals. His book A memory of Solferino inspired the establishment of the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863. Today, the need for
humanitarian action is still as vital as it was in 1859.
Providing first aid services to injured people was one of the first services provided
by the Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers for over 100 years. Now, almost all 187
Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) National Societies (NS) have first aid as their core
activity. Aware that task-shifting (a process of delegation whereby tasks are moved,
where appropriate, to less specialized persons) has become a very important
process to address health challenges in the last few years, RCRC National Societies
are the major first aid educator and provider in the world.
Today, there is a growing interest of private and public sectors alike in ensuring that
their respective employees and the population at large receive first aid training. Due
to the awareness on the importance of first aid techniques knowledge in reducing
the consequences of any type of accident, special attention is increasingly paid to
first aid and prevention. The first witness of an accident plays an essential role in
the survival chain. The general public should be encouraged to learn first aid since
they are often the first present on the spot and thus the first link in any survival
chain (pre-hospital care).

History of First Aid


The term first aid is now an accepted part of everyday language, and there is no
doubt that it encompasses the help and assistance given to sick and injured people,
but where did the term first aid originate and who were the original first aiders.
Prehistoric man, by necessity developed methods to treat the illnesses and injuries
that befell him. It probably didnt take long for them to realize in most cases that
plugging an open wound would eventually stop bleeding, or by lashing a tree
branch to a broken leg would allow the casualty to hobble around and would help
healing.

The first recorded history of first aid dates to 1099, when a religious order of
knights trained to administer medical treatment was formed. The Order of St John
to which the modern day St John Ambulance organization traces its rootsspecialized in the treatment of battlefield injuries during the crusades and are the
first recorded example of people trained to administer first aid.

In 1792, the French Army Surgeon General, formed the first official army medical
corps. People were trained and equipped for working away from the field hospitals.
Their task was to administer first aid on the battlefield and where necessary remove
the casualty to the field hospital by carrying them or on carts.
During the 1860s the first Geneva Convention and the International Red Cross
came into being to protect and deal with sick and injured soldiers on the battlefield.
Both resulted from the work begun by Henry Dunant, a Swiss man, who had
witnessed soldiers of both sides, being left to die with horrific injuries during the
Battle of Solferino in 1859. A short time later, an army surgeon first came up with
the idea of training civilians in what was termed pre-medical treatment.
The late 1800s saw drastic changes with the formations of what we now know as
the modern day British Red Cross (1870) and St John Ambulance (1877). In 1878,
the term first aid first appeared in Britain and is thought to be derived from first
treatment and National Aid. Thus the history of first aid was born.
Surgeon Major Peter Shepherd and a Doctor Coleman ran the first public first aid
course at Woolwich Presbyterian Church, London in January 1878. Dr. James Cantile
later published Shepherds lesson notes from that course as First Aid To The Injured.
It wasnt long before St John Ambulance was running other public courses in cities
throughout Britain.
Britains first official ambulance crews were trained for use in the mines and on the
railways. The attendants were trained in the most basic first aid and equipped with
handcarts, although a vast improvement on the facilities previously available, they
were little more than a transport service. As late as 1897 saw the formation of
Londons first full time ambulance service which was set up by the Metropolitan
Asylums Board.

During the First and Second World Wars, the British Red Cross and St John
Ambulance joined forces to form the Joint War Organization and played a major role
in support of the medical services, both on the battlefields abroad and in Britain.
The National Health Service Act of 1946 which came into effect in 1948, laid down
a statutory requirement for ambulances to be made available for callout by anyone
who needed them, which is the NHS ambulance service, as we know it today.
Modern day first aid training stems from the early work of the Red Cross and St John
Ambulance, and in principle has changed little since the early 1900s, although,
looking back through early training manuals reveals some practices, which today
are rather amusing.