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How to choose a first aid training provider

The Challenge of Choosing a First Aid Training Provider Explained By Acorn Health & Safety

If you search the internet nowadays or follow ads popping up on social media, it’s clear to see that in recent years there has been a significant increase in organisations and individuals offering first aid training courses.

When Acorn Health & Safety was founded, the only source for searching providers was the Yellow Pages, which only ever listed a couple of local companies and a few college’s, alongside well known national providers including of course, St John (or John’s to most people!) Ambulance and the British Red Cross Society.


The provision of first aid training was very focused on ‘First Aid at Work’ with organisations offering ‘Appointed Persons’ training or the traditional 4-day ‘First Aid at Work’ or 2-day ‘First aid at Work Re-qualification’ Courses.

Since 1st October 2013 (with the exception of the Offshore Installations and Pipeline Works Regulations 1989), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) haven’t approved first aid training or first aid training providers.  Despite this, a number of organisations still claim to be HSE ‘approved’ or to run ‘HSE approved courses’.

First aid training, like a number of subjects, is largely unregulated.  What I mean by this is that pretty much anyone can set themselves up in business as a first aid provider of one type or another and there is no requirement to be an ‘approved trainer’ or ‘training centre’.

Throughout the UK there are a number of awarding bodies, including Qualsafe Awards, Highfield, CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) and First Aid Awards Ltd. These centres approve individual trainers/training organisations and are themselves regulated.  In England, this is OFQUAL, in Wales DCELLS, in Scotland SQA and in Northern Ireland the CCEA.

There are also other organisations such as NUCO and the First Aid Industry Body, who provide support to trainers. However, some individuals and organisations will just choose to go it alone.

Becoming a First Aid Trainer

In the past, first aid trainers came from a variety of backgrounds. Some professional (e.g. nursing or the ambulance service) with many through the voluntary sector, myself included.

I worked so hard for my first British Red Cross ‘Demonstrators’ badge en route to finally becoming an ‘Instructor’, something I never actually achieved as the goal posts moved.  I became an ‘assistant trainer’ and then finally a ‘trainer’ and then finally I could teach first aid, just first aid.

Well, things have changed a lot since then.  Only two days ago I received an e-mail inviting me to become a first aid trainer in only 5-days, in this time I could achieve a host of training qualifications including:

Level 3 Award in Education and Training (RQF)

  • Approved First Aid Instructor
  • Approved Defibrillation Instructor
  • Approved Oxygen Therapy Instructor
  • Approved Anaphylaxis Management Instructor
  •  Level 3 Award in First Aid at Work
  • Level 2 Award in CPR & AED
  • Level 3 Award in Oxygen Therapy Administration
  • Level 3 Award in Immediate Management of Anaphylaxis
  • First Aid Internal Quality Assurance certificate


Whatever route individuals take to becoming first aid trainers, whether through volunteering, as healthcare professionals or participation in first aid trainers courses, in my experience in thirty years as a trainer and eighteen years as a training provider employing others, it’s a passion for first aid, an enquiring mind and hands-on practical experience that makes the best first aid trainers.

Choosing a First aid Training Provider

‘People don’t know what they don’t know’.  Glowing course evaluation forms and customer feedback don’t always equate to great training.  Throw in a little humour, make eye contact, throw in some biscuits and sound like you know what you’re talking about and most course delegates will be putty in your hands.

In recent years, during many course trainer observations and interviews for potential employees in our business, my colleagues and I have observed a significant difference in the breadth of trainers knowledge and a prolific increase in first aid myths and storytelling…

So below are a few tips and things to look out for when choosing first aid trainers and first aid training providers


Always make sure first aid trainers and training providers are appropriately insured. This should include public liability, employer’s liability (the only legal requirement if trainers are employed) and professional indemnity.  Make sure this meets the requirements of your organisation.

Larger organisations often require £2m and increasingly public sector organisations require a minimum of £5m of cover.


Registration with an awarding body demonstrates that trainers/training centres meet certain requirements and these have been checked and verified by someone external to the organisation.  This person is often referred to as the ‘EQA’ or external quality assessor.  How this is checked does seem to differ amongst awarding bodies.

We are a proud training centre for Qualsafe Awards (QA) First Aid. In December 2017, as part of a number of courses approval’s and our own internal quality assurance processes, Qualsafe Awards undertook their annual External Quality Assurance visit to ensure that our first aid trainers are appropriately qualified, experienced and supported and that course administration processes are consistent with Qualsafe policy and centre expectations.

An EQA visit will typically ensure trainers and centres:

  • Meet approval requirements
  • Follow approved administration practices
  • Deliver good training and support learners
  • Have robust assessment and quality assurance practices in place

Some EQA’s will also periodically sit in and provide feedback on first aid courses.

In addition, the Health and Safety Executive also provide guidance on selecting a first aid training provider.  This document contains a checklist for evaluating the competence of first aid training organisations.


Experience does count and whilst we need to perhaps be mindful of sharing too many blood, guts, death and dying with limbs hanging off stories, there is, in my view, a benefit to be derived from courses taught by trainers with hands-on practical experience.  Trainers come from a wide variety of backgrounds including the armed forces, health service, voluntary aid societies and industry.

In addition to practical experience, you need to be able to build a rapport with learners and get your chosen message across.  The most experienced, nurse, paramedic or first aider can be an awful trainer if they cannot communicate effectively with learners.  Nowadays the majority of trainers will have a recognised teaching and assessing qualification, or alternatively an equivalent professional qualification.

Whilst a trainer might have a long list of courses they are approved to teach, someone who’s only really taught shorter courses such as ‘Emergency First aid at Work’ may find delivering a 3-day ‘First Aid at Work course’ significantly more challenging owing to the breadth of knowledge required and the length of the course.

In interviews I’ll always ask a number of questions to challenge underpinning knowledge a little, for example:

  • What organ of the body produces insulin, what does it do?
  • Can you name four pieces of health and safety legislation that relate to first aid?
  • What’s a ‘specified injury’ under RIDDOR
  • What are the differences/modifiers for early years workers in paediatric resuscitation?

Whilst responses vary, on most occasions I increasingly find trainers struggle with the above without some significant prompting.

One thing is for certain, first aid training should never be dull or boring and it really upsets me when I hear this, which is sadly on a fairly regular basis.


The days of a trainer rocking up with a grubby manikin, a tub of wipes and a bag of recycled wound dressings really should be in the past.  Awarding bodies and training providers increasingly stipulate minimum course equipment requirements to help support learning.

Whilst course equipment will vary dependent on the course, I’d suggest the following really should be a minimum:

  • 1 adult mannikin per three learners
  • An appropriate number of paediatric/baby manikins
  • A choking vest or manikin
  • An AED trainer
  • A selection of wound dressing, triangular bandages and gloves
  • A ‘redhead’ airway trainer
  • Wipes or new faces for each delegate
  • A selection of adrenaline auto-injectors, inhalers and similar
  • A pocket mask and/or resuscitation face shields

Acorn Health and Safety

Finally, a shameless plug for our business.  At Acorn our trainers have massive amounts of experience and are well qualified.  We have almost 20 years business experience of providing interesting, quality training to a wide range of sectors. Our purpose built training centre is convenient for Bristol, Bath and both the M4 and M5 motorways.

We can also provide positive responses to all the questions posed above.

If you’ve any questions relating to first aid in general or first aid in the workplace, and whether you choose to use us as a training provider or not we are happy to help.  Just pick up the phone and call 0117 958 2070 or e-mail us you can also visit our website

Danny Street

Director of Acorn Health & Safety Ltd