Accidents at home – be careful in there.
- December 15, 2014
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The following article appeared on the Guardian Website on 12th December 2014.
If you want to avoid busy A&E units then you should shun the trampoline, discourage the kids from putting Lego up their nose, and be rather more careful getting something out of the loft.
That is the advice of the leader of Britain’s emergency medicine doctors, Dr Cliff Mann, who wants to highlight activities such as horse riding, mountain biking and even DIY, which are more dangerous than you might think.
Improvements in road safety and workplaces mean that homes and leisure pursuits now cause far more injuries and deaths – 1,000 per month – than car crashes and industrial accidents, according to Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine.
Of the 22 million people a year who attend A&E, about seven million do so as a result of an accident. Overall, accidents cost A&E units about £1bn a year.
“The public don’t appreciate the risk in everyday situations. If you ask them they would probably say that they’re more likely to die either on the roads or at work than at home. Both are untrue,” said Mann, who is keen to ease the heavy burden on the NHS from accidents.
“The reality is that you are more likely to die sorting out the Christmas lights by taking them out of the loft, or trying to fix the faulty plug or flex, than an electrician is on a building site. You are better off being at work or driving to or from work than you are being at home or doing a leisure activity with your family and friends.
“This isn’t about being a killjoy or a health and safety maniac. But if people knew more about the frequency and severity of accident-related injuries, they are more likely to then take some basic precautions.”
His warning is supported by previously unpublished NHS research showing that more accidents occur in the home than anywhere else.
Between 1 January 2012 and 13 August 2013, 26,310 patients were treated for injuries at Oxford’s John Radcliffe hospital and the Horton General hospital in neaby Banbury, of which 10,949 (41%) had been hurt at home and 6,602 (25%) during leisure activities.
The other third comprised 4,020 (15%) accidents on the roads, 2,620 (10%) in educational settings – such as pupils getting injured during PE lessons – and 2,119 (8%) at work.
Mann added: “People think the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house, but it’s actually the living room. Children get scalded from their parents having a hot cup of tea, people get burned by the fire and elderly people can trip on rugs.”
About 25,000 children a year attend A&E after being accidentally poisoned, 26,000 a year are burnt or scalded in the home and 4,200 fall on a set of stairs. Another 4,000 children a year are injured falling from windows.
“With DIY, the use of drills and chainsaws can lead to very severe injuries. You can half-amputate a limb with a chainsaw. Falling off a ladder doing DIY is another risk. Some people who do that die and some never work again,” Mann said.
Children who get sweets, bits of Lego and earrings stuck up their nose are another drain on A&E resources because the blockages have to be removed before they lead to an infection. In the garden, people with trampolines should ensure that not too many people use them at the same time and that those who do are roughly the same weight, in case a heavier person accidentally bounces a lighter one off.
And Mann said falls from lofts were much more common than people realised. Given the typical drop involved is 10ft, broken limbs and necks and bleeding in the brain are among common outcomes.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) is launching a campaign to educate the public about the dangers in common situations. It estimates that the overall costs of accidents to the NHS is more like £10bn, given the number of operations and amount of rehabilitation that can be needed for the most seriously injured.
“The impact of accidental injuries on our families, our doctors, our nurses, our workplaces is simply not understood or acknowledged. This is deeply frustrating, not least because the solution, in most cases, is simple and powerful,” said Tom Mullarkey, Rospa’s chief executive.
Prof Keith Willett, NHS England’s director for acute care, said: “The number of people who come though the A&E door with DIY, leisure and gardening injuries is striking. Working as a trauma surgeon for over 30 years, it has been frustrating to see how many people come to A&E with injuries that could have been avoided with a bit more care. However, I would much rather people remained active and fit for their general mental and physical well-being than avoided sport.”