What are the Priorities of First Aid?

Priorities of first aid

The priorities of first aid are preserving life, preventing casualties from getting worse, and promoting recovery. These are also known as the three Ps (preserve, prevent, promote) to make them easy to remember.

These principles include the most important procedures. As a result, they form the backbone of most first aid training courses. No first aider should forget them at any point. This applies when dealing with both physical and mental health problems.

Preserving Life

Preserving life is perhaps the main priority for first aiders. They should do everything in their power to ensure that someone’s physical and mental health isn’t a threat to their being.

However, it doesn’t just apply to an injured or sick person. This is because first aid includes “the casualty, yourself and bystanders at the scene”.[1] As a result, ensuring personal safety is a huge part of giving aid.

To secure personal safety, and the lives of others, removing hazards is vital. St Johns Ambulance recommends checking for three S’s, which are safety, scene and situation.[2] Work out whether it is safe to approach someone, and how the accident occurred. Then assess the situation i.e. how many people were harmed.

An incident can occur at any time, for example on or near a road. If this is the case, drivers need to be aware of a hazard on the road, else they are in danger of crashing into it. This could harm the injured person, a first aider, and the driver. As a result, you may need to stop traffic or put warning signs up.

Preventing Injuries from Becoming Worse

After securing personal and bystander safety, the next step is preserving life of the injured by preventing injures from getting worse.

Whilst the emergency services are on their way, a first aider must do all they can to manage the situation and any symptoms. This can be done through the various first aid procedures available. But of course, it depends on the injury.

A few of the procedures include:

  • Open wounds: elevating the body part
  • Burns: applying cold water to the burned area, and covering it with something like clingfilm[3]
  • Fractures: padding the body part and preventing the person from moving/straightening it
  • Head-knocks: applying ice to the injured area to prevent swelling and monitoring for behaviour changes
  • Unconscious people: tilting the head back to open the airway

In addition, personal hygiene is hugely important to prevent physical injuries from getting worse in the long-term. This is especially important for open wounds, which are vulnerable to bacterial infections. As such, washing hands, using antiseptic wipes and using clean bandages is a must.

Promoting Recovery

Finally, a first aider must promote recovery. To do so, they must ensure that a person is as comfortable as possible.

The main aim of this stage is to minimise pain and putting the patient at ease. As such, this involves things like applying bandages to cuts, as it will help the wound to heal. Another important aspect is talking to and distracting the patient. Talk about a hobby and try to make them laugh. If they are not up for this, reassure them that everything will be fine, as you are trained. This will take their mind off the pain and help emotional recovery.

If the person is unconscious, you may need to put them in the recovery position or perform CPR. These are hugely vital manoeuvres that will promote recovery and save someone’s life, so make sure to complete first aid training for an in-depth understanding of the steps involved.

You can view our online first aid courses here.


[1] https://www.train-aid.co.uk/blog/preserve-prevent-promote

[2] http://www.sja.org.uk/sja/first-aid-advice/what-to-do-as-a-first-aider/the-role-of-a-first-aider.aspx

[3] https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/injuries/skin-injuries/burns-and-scalds