If you’re looking to become safer in the outdoors or maybe you need to update your outdoor first aid qualification for your job, you may have found yourself confused by the seemingly endless number of different types of courses available. Hopefully this article will go some way to demystifying outdoor first aid courses.

You might have heard of REC (Rescue Emergency Care), ITC, Nuco or First Aid Awards first aid courses, but did you know that these are essentially just brands a bit like Arc’teryx or Berghaus?

Since 2013, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) no longer approves first aid training and qualifications and, instead, businesses and individuals have to make their own decisions about whether a particular first aid course and provider are suitable for their needs.

HSE explain that there are four types of first aid provider to choose from:

  • regulated qualifications from an awarding organisation – these are recognised and regulated by Ofqual, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) or the Welsh Government.
    An example of these would be a course provided by ITC, Nuco or First Aid Awards or our own Outdoor First Aid course in Snowdonia.
  • independent training where the provider can prove their competence.
    REC courses would fall under this category as they are unregulated and manage their own process in-house.
  • voluntary approval schemes, such as a trade body accredited by a third party – the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the national accreditation body recognised by government.
  • training from one of the three Voluntary Aid Societies recognised by the government:
    St John Ambulance, British Red Cross, St Andrew’s First Aid (although none of these offer specific outdoor first aid courses)

All the main players in the outdoor first aid market are covered by these categories so no matter which route you go down, you should be getting good training and a valid qualification. However (and ok, we’re biased) we believe our regulated outdoor first aid courses are the best option. So what does ‘regulated’ mean exactly and why aren’t REC courses, for example, not regulated?

As mentioned in the HSE guidelines above, regulated first aid training providers have to meet a set of standards set out by an awarding organisation such as Ofqual, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) or the Welsh Government. These standards include instructors holding a recognised teaching qualification and having a relevant first aid qualification themselves to cover the topics they intend to teach. Regulated first aid providers will also be externally quality assured each year to ensure they’re meeting the awarding organisation’s standards and requirements.

REC courses are instead managed ‘in-house’ and, while there isn’t anything wrong with that, we feel having an external awarding organisation manage this gives an extra layer of resilience.

As an outdoor first aid provider, our instructors have to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in emergency care, they regularly update their own first aid qualifications and are also put through a rigorous quality assurance programme every 12 months to ensure the quality of their instruction.

Whilst technically anyone can offer first aid training, we would always recommend a regulated first aid course such as our Outdoor First Aid course which is regulated by Ofqual so you’re guaranteed quality approved training and a recognised qualification (from a national awarding organisation and not the same company you’re paying your money to!)

Our comprehensive two-day outdoor first aid qualification will provide you with the skills and knowledge to respond to a range of emergency outdoor situations. Find out more.