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NHS long-term plan is a welcome and overdue focus on prevention

Welcome the announcement of the NHS 10-year plan, which has a greater focus on prevention

Responding to today’s release of the NHS long-term plan, Errol Taylor, RoSPA’s chief executive, said: “We warmly welcome the announcement of the NHS 10-year plan, which has a greater focus on prevention. However this new focus is long overdue given the UK’s growing burden of accidental injury. The steady reduction in injury rates from road and workplace accidents that we have enjoyed until recently appears to have stalled. In parallel, we’re seeing a steady and unnecessary rise in the rate of injuries due to home and leisure accidents.

“The growing burden of accidental (unintentional) injury is having a major impact on our NHS and social care services.

“To arrest the rising trend in accident rates, we need a step change in our approach to prevention. Accidents are preventable and therefore don’t have to happen. Investment in injury prevention programmes provides parents, carers and individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to safely negotiate everyday hazards, such as a toddler and access to cleaning products and an elderly person with poor mobility coping with a flight of stairs. Sir Michael Marmot’s work on health inequalities shows that it is the most vulnerable – the youngest, oldest and poorest – in our society who suffer disproportionately.

“Unintentional injury to young children leads to many disability-adjusted life years, placing a burden not only on the health services but also, in real terms, their family. As stated in the Government’s announcement, very young children deserve the best start in life and we need all new parents to receive the type of educational material that is included in resources such as RoSPA’s Keeping Kids Safe packs, largely funded by generous donations to our Brighter Beginnings Appeal. This contains reminders of the value of simple measures such as using a safety gate to prevent toddlers from using the stairs or having access to the kitchen. To equip health visitors with information of this nature would help to ensure that every family receives this crucial information.

“At the other end of the age spectrum, RoSPA’s successful collaboration with the Department of Health on the Stand Up, Stay Up programme shows the importance of physical activity, spending time with friends/family, home safety checks and practical aids such as extra handrails, to help people age well. Failure to address falls among the elderly leads to social isolation, serious injuries and many other health challenges that pile pressure on care services and the NHS.

“Prevention is better than cure and is proven to work; RoSPA is already working with the Government’s new Office for Product Safety and Standards on injury prevention initiatives, and it is this kind of partnership working that will also help to avoid any future Grenfell-style disasters.

“Recommendations from RoSPA’s national accident prevention strategy, launched in October under the leadership of former Secretary of State for Health, the Right Honorable Stephen Dorrell, align well with the NHS 10-year plan and its new focus on prevention, so we encourage commissioners, NHS trusts, GPs and others involved in delivering health services to utilise it.”

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Accidents are the biggest threat to you and your family for most your life. In fact, more than 14,000 people die as a result of accidents across the UK each year, while thousands more are maimed and millions are injured. Businesses are ruined. Families are devastated. Children grow up without parents, parents without children. Yet despite the scale and severity of the problem, accidents are still too often discussed with a shrug of the shoulders. There is a pervasive belief amongst some people that accidents are somehow inevitable. That they can't be stopped. Imagine if we took the same attitude towards child abuse. Or cancer. For almost 100 years, RoSPA has been quietly working behind the scenes to change both legislation and attitudes surrounding accidents. From the compulsory wearing of seatbelts and the campaign to stop drink driving, to the Cycling Proficiency Test and to the more recent ban on handheld mobile phones behind the wheel, RoSPA has been instrumental in shaping our society for the better, preventing millions of deaths and serious injuries along the way. As a registered charity, we are committed to continuing this legacy of change.
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