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Book Review: The First Aid Manual, including the Emergency First Aid Manual

Note that this review is from 2006 and is based on an old version of the first aid manual. Click here for the updated review of the latest first aid manual.

From the UK’s leading First Aid Providers, St. John Ambulance, St. Andrew’s Ambulance Association and British Red Cross


Book Review:

  • Title: The First Aid Manual, with free reference guide Emergency First Aid
  • Authors: The Voluntary Aid Societies, St. John Ambulance, St. Andrew’s Ambulance Associate and the BritishRedCross.
  • Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
  • Date: 2006
  • Pages: 288 (main first aid manual), (32 Emergency First Aid Quick Reference Guide)
  • ISBN: 1-4053-1573-3

This is a review of the latest version of the First Aid Manual published in 2006. This is a revised and updated version from the 8th edition of the manual which was published in 2002. This may cause a little confusion in that the latest version does not have an edition number, other than a small reference in the inside cover, to the previous 8th edition. This is NOT a 9th edition. I believe this is quite an honest move by the publishers, which I’ll come to later in the review.

To recognise the book, it comes in a white cover, and in the top right hand corner has the words “Latest Update including new resuscitation guidelines”, and features a girl with a burn as well as two smaller casualty pictures on the front cover. If you are offered a version which mentions 8th edition in the top right, then I suggest you stay well clear of purchasing an out-of-date copy of the manual.

The recommended retail price on the back of the book is £12.99, but it is available at a reduced price from:
St. John Supplies (supporting St. John Ambulance) and the First Aid Quiz Online Shop (supporting the First Aid Quiz, web site).

The book is published by the 3 volunteer aid societies and is considered the definitive reference for First Aid in the UK. Each of the 3 volunteer aid societies benefit from every copy of the First Aid Manual sold.

It is a book that many people will have in an earlier version. So rather than just focusing on one group of people I have written two mini-reviews covering those that don’t already have a copy, and for those that do, to ask the question “is it worth buying the updated version?”.

If you don’t already have a copy of the first aid manual

If you don’t already have a copy of the first aid manual, then you have either got a different first aid book, or none at all. If you don’t have a first aid book then I strongly suggest that you get some kind of book. It is still no substitute for proper first aid training, and indeed if you’ve had training it’s easy to forget with out a book to refer to. If you have nothing else then a first aid book is better than nothing.

If you have a first aid book published before 2006 then you should be looking at getting a new book (see the section on owners of an old first aid manual for reasons why), and if it’s before 2002 then it is very out of date.

When comparing the First Aid Manual with other first aid books, there is not that many to bring a direct comparison against. Most of the other first aid books are either course specific workbooks, or about specific areas of first aid. For example there are first aid books for babies, first aid books for children and first aid books for motorists, but not many general first aid books.

These other books can be good at their specific subject area, but injuries don’t descriminate by age, or activity. For example if you have a first aid at work related book, then it will not normally cover treatment of children and babies, as you generally don’t find them in the workplace (except for children oriented places, such as schools, nurseries and activity parks). Although you may not need to know how to deal with children and babies in the workplace, you may have to at home, or whlist travelling etc.
The other problem with workbooks is that whilst they are useful to work through on a course, they generally do not make good reference books for after the course. Certain sections may have blank spaces for the student to fill in, which is the last thing you want to see when trying to deal with an incident.
St. John Ambulance has now dropped their First Aid at Work – workbook, and now use the First Aid Manual exclusively on their courses. I imagine some other training providers do the same.

The first aid manual is not written as a workbook, but as a reference manual. Each of the sections are grouped into logical sections and colour coded to make them easier to find. There is also an Emergency First Aid booklet included which provides a quick reference for step-by-step procedures for use in an emergency. All the content of the emergency first aid booklet is repeated in the first aid manual, but the emergency first aid booklet (which is 32 pages long) includes a quick contents list on the outside cover, to make it even easier to find.

In the main first aid manual many of the injuries, conditions or treatments includes a description, aguide to the signs and symptoms, as well as details of how to treat the injury. Most of these are a page long, but some are a little longer, and some occupy only half a page. There is also some other information such as how to deal with an incident and some very basic explanations about the working of the body where this is relevant to the first aid guidance. Colour photographs are used throughout the manual to show some of the key treatment information.

The First Aid Manual comes out as a clear choice for all as not only is it well put together and easy to use, but there are so few alternatives that cover the same information. If you want a book for a certain area or type of person (e.g. children) then you may find some other books are more focused to your needs, but for a general first aid guide it’s the natural choice.

Is it worth buying the updated copy if you already have the 8th edition first aid manual?

If you’ve already got the 8th edition is it worth replacing it with the new version? The first thing to note is that this is very similar to the 8th edition manual which was published in 2002. This is very different from the jump from the 7th edition to the 8th which involved a complete re-write. I therefore think it’s quite an honest move from the publishers to not call this the 9th edition, although not doing so has made it a bit harder to identify the latest edition (see the top of this posting).

If you compare the latest version and the 8th edition side by side many of the pages are identical, and most of the photographs are still the same. Which may have you wondering why they bothered with a new edition at all, the cynics may suspect this is some kind of ploy to sell more copies of the book, but the changes have really come from the UK Resucitation Council and are not created by either the publishers or the volunteer aid societies.

The reason for this is that new research has shown that by changing the emphesis in the CPR sequence the chance of survival can be greatly improved. There are also other changes including simplification of the protocols to make them easier to remember and learn. These new protocols have been in use (in some places) for about a year now, and it is evident that they make a large difference in the survival rates of patients. Even thought there are definite advantages to the new protocols, that doesn’t mean that the old ways can no longer be used, but that if you are learning first aid then you will be using the new protocols.

If you only have a copy of the first aid manual for your personal use, and use on your family then the chance of you need to perform CPR is fairly low and hopefully the main importance is for dealing with some of the minor injuries. In this case you may be happy to keep using the 8th edition manual for a little longer.

If however you need to know first aid for a professional reason (such as a workplace first aider, or you are responsible for looking after someone elses children), then you should be looking at updating with the new protocols at some point. Your first aid certificate runs for up to 3 years, so you may still be a while before you take a refresher, so do you stick with your old manual until you’ve updated, or get hold of a new copy right away? Personally I think it’s better to get a copy of the new manual so that you are at least aware of the new changes. You may find yourself working alongside another first aider who has already learned the new protocols so it’s worth knowing the differences even if you haven’t been formally trained in the new protocols.

Whether you get a copy of the new manual is personal choice, but the first aid manual is showing no signs of giving up it’s position at the number one reference for first aid in the UK.

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