Policy briefing

A national accident prevention strategy for England

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents calls for preventive action across the ages

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents strategy calls for action to save lives and prevent injuries across the ages, including children and young people

Child at top of stairs may fall. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents wants to reduce such injuries and save lives
Picture: iStock

Essential information

Accidents to children are a significant health issue, and major cause of preventable death, serious injury and long-term disability, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Across England each year, an average of 132 children aged up to 14 die as a result of accidents. More than 100,000 are admitted to hospital.

An average of 571 young people aged 15-24 die and about 61,000 are admitted to hospital because of accidental injuries.

Under-fives are one of the age groups most vulnerable to accidents, especially in the home.

What’s new?

Improving education for parents, carers and children is a major part of preventing serious accidents to children and young people, says RoSPA.

RoSPA’s new national strategy calls for action to save lives and reduce injuries, with recommendations for children up to 14 years and for young people aged 15-24 years.

For children aged up to 14, the main causes of fatal accidents are: road accidents; threats to breathing, such as suffocation, strangulation and choking; drowning; falls, including babies being dropped and falls from a height; and inanimate forces.

Among young people, the main cause of accidental death is also road accidents. Priorities for action in this age group include improving driving safety and more research into the cause of falls, which are the most common reason for hospital admission.

The strategy stresses the importance of health and social care staff working together. 

A senior manager should be designated the lead for child injury prevention so programmes are delivered in an integrated and systematic way, supported by an injury prevention strategy and a multi-agency injury prevention group. 

The document points out that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that the professional with specific responsibility for children’s and young people’s injury prevention should sit on the local safeguarding children board to raise awareness of the need for injury-prevention activities.

RoSPA recommends that schoolchildren have opportunities to undertake pedestrian training and that prevention of accidental injuries should be a core topic in the new compulsory health education curriculum for all schools.

The UK Drowning Prevention Strategy, with a focus on promoting learn-to-swim and water-safety education in schools, should be implemented.

Implications for nurses

  • Accidental injuries disproportionately affect children from low income families.
  • Physical activity is important for children’s overall health and well-being, and efforts to prevent accidents should be balanced against the broader benefits of activities. There is an element of risk in activities, but wrapping children in cotton wool would be detrimental to their healthy development.
  • Health visitors play a pivotal role in delivering advice and support to the families of young children through the Healthy Child Programme. The five universal reviews provide structured opportunities for conversations about safety issues that are pertinent to each child’s stage of development.
  • Healthcare professionals can help parents and carers make their homes safer, for example through referral to home safety assessments or equipment schemes. Road safety officers can also support families, for example through child car-seat checking events.
  • Education on injury prevention should be part of entry-level training and ongoing continuing professional development for early years practitioners.

Expert comment

Coral ReesCoral Rees is an advanced paediatric nurse practitioner at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales, Cardiff

The majority of childhood presentations in emergency departments are due to unintentional injuries. Many of these are predictable and preventable.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents' document recommends actions to improve safety across the ages while suggesting who should be responsible for this at a strategic level.

As nurses, health promotion is part of our daily clinical roles so injury prevention is something we can highlight, directly during consultations and indirectly on health promotion boards in our units, wards and departments.

Every contact with a child and family is an opportunity to raise age-appropriate issues that can improve the health of children and young people.

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