MORE than 80 per cent of people in the south west would be reluctant to perform CPR on cardiac arrest victims, new research shows.

The British Heart Foundation, which carried out the study, found 81 per cent of those surveyed in the area were concerned about carrying out the procedure.

The charity has warned that a lack of public knowledge of CPR could be costing lives as new research from the University of Warwick also finds that those who have been trained in CPR are three times more likely to perform it.

The main reasons for reluctance to step in were fear of causing more harm than good (46 per cent) and lacking the skills and knowledge to perform CPR (39 per cent).

But experts warn that the benefits of performing CPR far outweigh the risks, as survival rates are almost zero if people collapse and get no support until paramedics arrive.

There are over 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK, and devastatingly less than one in 10 survive.

But according to the BHF, if survival rates matched those reported in Norway, where CPR is taught more widely, as many as 5,000 lives could be saved.

Every minute without CPR or defibrillation can reduce a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest by around 10 per cent.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of BHF, said: "CPR may be the difference between life and death for hundreds of people every year in the south west who suffer a cardiac arrest. Every second counts, and it simply isn’t enough to hope that someone who knows CPR is present.

“We need everyone in the south west to learn this life-saving skill to give them the confidence to step in and give CPR when someone collapses after a cardiac arrest.

“That’s why we are urging secondary schools across the UK to apply for our free training kits and help create a nation of lifesavers.”