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Thousands of unintentional injuries to children could be prevented says NICE

It's important for children to enjoy life and participate in normal activities, but sometimes injuries can happen. Many of these injuries to children and young people are avoidable, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Although a high number of unintentional injuries are minor, serious preventable injuries can happen and the evidence demonstrates that unintentional injury is a leading cause of death among children and young people under 15 [1]. In draft recommendations issued today (17 May), NICE recommends a range of measures from improving education to using safety equipment correctly which can help reduce unintentional injuries and keep children and young people safe from harm.

Each year in the UK alone more than two million children and young people visit accident and emergency departments with an unintentional injury [2]. Minor injuries are part of growing up, and help children and young people to learn their boundaries and manage risks for themselves. However unintentional injuries can be serious or result in childhood deaths. In 2008 in England and Wales, 208 children aged 14 or under died from unintentional injuries.[3] For this reason, NICE has developed public health guidance on strategies to prevent unintentional injuries in children and young people under 15. It identifies national policy options to reduce unintentional injuries among this age group, and includes recommendations that suggest policy change is needed to ensure local agencies and individuals take action.

The draft recommendations cover six key areas: workforce training and capacity building, injury surveillance, home safety, water safety inside and outside the home, outdoor play and leisure, and road safety.

Draft recommendations include:

  • Include the prevention of unintentional injuries among children and young people in all government white papers and policy plans relevant to children's health.
  • Provide everyone who works with (or cares for) children and young people with access to education and training on unintentional injury prevention.
  • Establish a national injuries surveillance resource covering all populations and injuries to support the monitoring of injury risks and the effects of prevention measures.
  • Introduce a regulatory framework that incorporates the housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) and requires the fitting of permanent safety equipment, such as hard-wired smoke alarms, in all social and rented housing. Priority should be given to social and rented homes where children aged under 5 are living.
  • Incorporate home safety assessments for all families with a child aged under 5 in the Healthy Child Programme and the ‘Children and Young person's plan' and ensure that these meet the household's specific needs and circumstances.
  • Provide children and young people, their parents and carers with information and education on water safety in play and leisure environments.

Mike Kelly, Public Health Excellence Centre Director, NICE said: “It's a normal part of growing up for children to sometimes hurt themselves in day-to-day life, but we also need to prevent serious injuries from happening. These can have a profound effect on a young child right through to adult life, as they may need lengthy treatment and could be permanently disabled or disfigured.”

“Our aim is not to promote a nanny state where children can't have fun or lead normal lives, but there is an important balance to be struck between good and bad risks. Exposing children and young people to some risks can be beneficial, helping them to learn, develop and mature, but serious risks should be avoided.

“Our guidance covers a wide range of environments, for example inside the home and off road, because unintentional injuries for children and young people can take place in a wide variety of settings.

“We hope our guidance will set a gold standard for everyone who is responsible for preventing unintentional injuries in children and young people when it is published later this year.”

This draft guidance focuses on national policy options which if followed can help reduce unintentional injuries in children and young people under 15. It is mainly aimed at the government, national and local policy makers, strategic planners, commissioners, managers and practitioners who are responsible for preventing unintentional injuries for this age group. The draft guidance is available on the website via http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/index.jsp?action=folder&o=48627. Anyone wishing to submit comments on this draft guidance is invited to do so via the NICE website, www.nice.org.uk, until 15 June. Final guidance is expected in November 2010.

This is one of five pieces of NICE guidance currently in development on how to prevent unintentional injuries among children and young people aged under 15. The others will address: road design and modification; education and protective equipment to prevent road injuries; risk assessments to prevent home injuries and providing safety equipment; and outdoor play and leisure.

In the context of the overarching guidance on strategies to prevent unintentional injuries among children and young people under 15, the suite of guidance referred to above focuses on a more local level, making recommendations for local organisations.

Together this suite of guidance will make a significant contribution to the framework of policy advice and guidance for anyone who has a direct or indirect role in, and responsibility for, preventing unintentional injuries among under 15s.

[1] Sethi et al
[2] Audit Commission and Healthcare Commission 2007
[3] Office for National Statistics 2009

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This page was last updated: 18 May 2010

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Accessibility | Cymraeg | Freedom of information | Vision Impaired | Contact Us | Glossary | Data protection | Copyright | Disclaimer | Terms and conditions

Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.