Basic Life Support Guidelines updated for 2021 release

10 May 2021

The 2021 ANZCOR Basic Life Support (BLS) Guidelines have been released following a detailed review, with updates reflecting current best practice in resuscitation.

ANZCOR is the Australian and New Zealand Committee on Resuscitation, of which the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) and New Zealand Resuscitation Council are its members. The ANZCOR guidelines are endorsed by both councils. Royal Life Saving WA follows these guidelines for all First Aid and CPR components of its training courses.

The BLS guidelines incorporate Sections 2-8 of the ARC Guidelines:

  • Assessment
  • The Unconscious State
  • Airway
  • Breathing
  • Circulation
  • Defibrillation
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation 


So, what’s new in the 2021 release?

In essence, very little has changed. Although a great deal of attention has been given to BLS during the COVID-19 pandemic, the basic principles remain the same. Ratio of compressions to ventilations (30:2), depth of compressions (>5cm in adults, approximately 5cm in children and 4cm in infants), and the recommended compression rate of 100-120 per minute all remain unchanged.

The current ANZCOR guidelines reflect a lower prevalence of possible infectious agents, such as COVID-19, in Australia and New Zealand. The value of ventilation has been reaffirmed, with rescuers encouraged to perform ventilation if they are willing and able. 

Recommendations relevant to a higher prevalence of COVID-19 have been published by the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce (NCET), which include guidance for trained first responders and healthcare professionals. NCET recommends that in the presence of active community transmission of COVID-19 and mask-wearing restrictions, breathing should be assessed only by looking, and only chest compressions performed during CPR.

However, it is important to emphasise that most sudden cardiac arrests occur in the presence of family, friends, or work colleagues and mouth-to-mouth ventilation should be encouraged if the rescuer is willing and able.

The full set of 2021 guidelines can be downloaded from the ARC website at the link below.

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