Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne highlights importance of first aid training for hospitality businesses

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

How to train your Dragon: Bannatyne recently took part in a first aid training day at his head office
How to train your Dragon: Bannatyne recently took part in a first aid training day at his head office
Duncan Bannatyne has told BigHospitality he thinks many hospitality businesses across the UK have ‘a serious lack of training and knowledge’ when it comes to first aid provision, after the Dragons’ Den star experienced his own emergency last year.

The 64-year-old health club tycoon suffered severe chest pains while working at his head office last September, but he made a speedy recovery thanks to the quick-thinking and first aid knowledge of his secretary.

“It was a really scary experience,” Bannatyne told BigHospitality. “I had collapsed on the floor and was finding it really difficult to breathe.

“I was lucky that my secretary found me. She hadn’t been trained in first aid but she knew what to do.

'Lack of training'

“The incident made me realise the importance of having good first aid training across your business, so I organised and took part in a training day at our head office.

Bannatyne-first-aid
I'm in: The Dragons' Den star urging other employers to train as many of their staff as possible in essential first aid

“I was surprised at the lack of training and knowledge that was in place - we were asked what we would you do in certain situations and none of us really knew the right answer.”

Bannatyne, who also owns four hotels in the UK, is now backing a St John Ambulance campaign to encourage workplaces to train more of their employees to save a life. “I’d read about the work St John Ambulance was doing in the paper and I realised that my businesses – and others – needed to get on-board and become more proactive,” he said.

“The responsibility ultimately lies with the employers; to ensure their staff are well-trained. I don’t think employers like me initially realise the benefits – imagine if you spent just a little bit of money and you ended up saving someone’s life from it.

Safer community

“A first aid course is £110 which, when you’re employing people and paying them a yearly wage, is a relatively small amount of money. It is hard times and I accept that not all organisations can do it, but you only have to train some of your staff to potentially make a big difference.”

Bannatyne’s message follows a survey of the restaurant industry last year by food hygiene specialist DayMark.​Despite 15.5 per cent of chefs reporting that they cut or burn themselves at least once a week, the survey revealed that 37 per cent don’t know where the first aid kit is kept, while 60 per cent have occasionally found vital contents of the kits missing.

Richard Evens, St John Ambulance’s commercial training director, said: “By equipping employees with these skills, organisations are not just making their workplaces safer for their staff. 

“Over 60 per cent of first aiders trained at work told us that they had used their skills outside of the workplace. So by giving employees the skills to save a life, businesses are also making their communities a safer place to live.”

Hotel expansion & business tips

Bannatyne, who is worth an estimated £430m, went on to tell us that ‘business is good’ across his four hotels in Darlington, Durham, Hastings and Somerset.​“The first three months of this year are actually better last year - a slight increase,” he said.

And, when probed about the possibility of expanding his hotel business, the Dragon added: “We’re just treading water a little bit at the moment because of the recession, so expansion is not on the agenda. But we’ll certainly be talking about it in our board meetings every three months, and discussing how we can work towards it.

“In five years’ time I’d love to have two or three more hotels and a few more spas.”

Having made a name for himself helping aspiring start-up businesses, Bannatyne echoed the views of fellow entrepreneur Luke Johnson​when asked to give his biggest piece of advice for hospitality businesses.

“In the current climate, it’s all about giving the best service,” Bannatyne said. “That’s what can make you stand out from the crowd.”

For more information on Duncan Bannatyne’s work with the St John Ambulance first aid initiative or to get your business involved, visit sja.org.uk or call 0844 324 5535.

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