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Home safety visits should complement health visitors

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Home safety experts should work in partnership with health visitors under a new initiative designed to prevent accidental injuries to under-fives, according to a joint campaign.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine are calling for a £20m-per-year prevention programme.

“It would cost a relatively small amount of money each year to make a huge difference”

Tom Mullarkey

They said an “ideal” programme would see homes visited by safety educators, who explained individual hazards and arranged the fitting of safety equipment, such as stairgates and fireguards, while complementing the work already carried out by health visitors.

According to research by the two organisations, accident and emergency departments treat a disproportionate number of unintentional injuries in three age groups – the under-fives, 15-24-year-olds and people over-70.

The under-fives account for 7% of all hospital emergency treatment at a cost to the NHS in England of £140m in 2013-14.

With 72% of unintentional injuries to under-fives occurring in the home, the two organisations believe targeted injury prevention programmes offer the best opportunity to reduce harm, A&E attendances and admissions.

A 30% reduction in emergency treatment for under-fives would reduce the overall burden on A&E by 2% – 165,000 attendances and 14,600 admissions – they said, which they described as a “realistic aspiration”.

They noted that injury prevention programmes, such as RoSPA’s Safe At Home, which combined education for parents and safety equipment for families, have proved to be “effective and inexpensive”.

They were set to launch a report on their research, called Action on Accidents to Relieve Pressure on A&E, to policymakers and health experts at a House of Lords reception today.

Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA’s chief executive, said: “A combination of education, information and safety equipment, targeted at the most vulnerable families in areas with the highest injury rates, can produce outstanding results.

“It would cost a relatively small amount of money each year to make a huge difference, not only to the pressures on A&E and the amount of money spent, but also to the lives of those whose lives can be devastated by accidents,” he said.


Dr Clifford Mann

Clifford Mann

Dr Clifford Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, added: “The programme we are proposing would prevent substantial numbers of accidents involving children under five with a consequent reduction in injuries. Many are avoidable through simple measures.”

In response, Eustace de Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families at Public Health England, said: “Public Health England provides leadership and guidance for health visitors to strengthen their role in helping parents prevent accidents in children under five.

“We provide advice and information to local authorities on the actions they can take to help families think about what they can do at home and in public places to keep their children safer,” he added.

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