How this publication came to exist

In the early years of the 1990s, the British Red Cross began training in ambulance aid and in the use of automated external defibrillators. These courses involved learning specific aspects of human anatomy and physiology above the levels which had previously been taught in first aid training.

This work began life as I went through this training and was my set of personal notes. It initially covered only the skeletal, circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems.

At about the same time, the computer graphics market saw the launch of programs like CorelDRAW with large libraries of ‘clipart’, licensed for free use within documents and publications. A fair proportion of the diagrams within the original work were taken directly from such clipart libraries.

I had passed a print of the work – by this time a small book including most of the body systems – to my Red Cross group leader, Roger Serpell. Roger was, during this time, heavily involved in the national first aid competition; through this connection, he was acquainted with Sir Cameron Moffat – the chief medical adviser to the British Red Cross.

Roger showed the book to Sir Cameron, and shortly afterwards, I received a request to send a complete draft for Sir Cameron to review, towards publication as a Red Cross training manual.

This I duly did, receiving some very useful initial feedback.

Shortly afterwards, Sir Peter Beale took over the post of chief medical advisor. He, along with Roger Smith (then head of training) and Joe Mulligan (his deputy), took on the project. With further reviews, arrangements for formatting into British Red Cross ‘house style’ and supply of the material in digital form were worked out.

The book was published in 1995, in printed form, and was listed in the British Red Cross national supplies catalog.

Sadly, only one print run was ever done and at some time around 2000, the book disappeared from the supplies catalogue with no more copies available.

By this time, the publication styling was beginning to look out-of-date (in particular the monochrome diagrams) and several ‘misprints’ had become apparent. I began to form ideas of doing a rewrite, and consulted several close Red Cross colleagues as to whether this would be worthwhile. Early interest was not encouraging, but as the revised ‘enhanced skills’ training packages for British Red Cross first aid volunteers – together with the IHCD-accredited ambulance crew qualification – were launched in 2003, support for new anatomy and physiology training material was growing, and I began planning major revisions.

Advances in computer technology and its increasing general availability meant that colour diagrams had become a viable option, plus the more modern systems could easily handle the size and complexity of the resultant files.

At the same time, the amount of information available via the Internet made researching new material (particularly the sections on injury and illness) much more easy than it would otherwise have been.

The project, with all diagrams re-drawn in colour, many new diagrams, plus extended text, was finally ready in 2005.

The British Red Cross did not wish to take it on as a training resource, so I opted for private publication, originally via BT’s web hosting infrastructure. I am most grateful to Mike Morrison for now hosting the work on his RapidBI website.


Neil Pielou    2006, 2007, 2015


Anatomy and Physiology for first aiders and first responders

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