RoSPA's campaign for injury data to be collected
Since 2002, RoSPA has led the campaign for the re-establishment of injury data collection in the UK.
The UK was once a world leader in a process called "injury surveillance", which identifies how people are hurt in accidents, including what they were doing at the time, where they were and what products (if any) were involved. This data was analysed to establish trends, which allowed steps to be taken to prevent such accidents happening in the future.
Until 2002, the former Department of Trade and Industry collected this data through the Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance Systems (HASS/LASS). Unfortunately, no fresh data has been collected since then. The last annual figures from HASS/LASS revealed that 2.7million people in the UK visited hospital after home accidents and 2.9million people following leisure accidents.
...the absence of up-to-date figures on injuries and their causes means we cannot determine the true costs of accidents.
Since 2002, RoSPA has highlighted the problems caused by a lack of data and led the call for injury surveillance to be re-established. The campaign has gained momentum in recent years with the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) and Intertek RAM coming on board.
All the campaign partners have raised awareness of the problems caused by a lack of data, including the inability to spot injury trends, which, in turn, makes it difficult to target prevention campaigns and evaluate their effectiveness.
Such problems have been highlighted in recent years through the need for, but absence of, comprehensive UK-wide injury data related to pushchairs, Christmas lights, "toxic sofas", trampolines, hair straighteners and flat-screen televisions, to name just a handful of items.
The lack of data also means the UK is currently unable to provide data for the European Injury Database.
Errol Taylor, RoSPA chief executive, said: "While we have information about deaths, the absence of up-to-date figures on injuries and their causes means we cannot determine the true costs of accidents, both in terms of the misery being suffered by families and the financial burden on employers and society in general. Without this information, we are unable to prioritise new injury prevention campaigns, such as raising awareness of everyday hazards or calling for the introduction of new product safety regulations. It is also impossible to measure the effect of prevention campaigns on injury rates.
...problems highlighted by an absence of comprehensive UK-wide injury data have related to pushchairs, Christmas lights, "toxic sofas", trampolines, hair straighteners and flat-screen televisions.
"There is a clear demand for injury data. In fact, 70,000 people from every sector of the UK economy accessed the old HASS/LASS data, which is still available via the RoSPA website, during 2008 - a 40 per cent rise on the year before."
A central part of the campaign has been making the case for the feasibility of UK-wide injury data collection in hospitals.
To establish this feasibility, a year-long study, commissioned jointly by RoSPA, the ESC and Intertek RAM, and supported by the Department of Health, was conducted.
The findings were presented to the former Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson. A key recommendation was to carry out detailed research into the practicalities and value of various data collection methods in busy accident and emergency (A&E) departments.
The campaign received a major boost as a result of the presentation, when the Department for Health commissioned the South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) in Bristol to carry out the research. The project, which is exploring the relative merits of various types of injury data collection methods, is taking place at A&E departments in Exeter, Oxford and London.
...a central part of the campaign has been making the case for the feasibility of UK-wide injury data collection in hospitals.
The project, which got underway in 2009, is using established best practice to create systems which will allow receptionists to collect injury causation data when patients arrive in the A&E department.
A representative sample of these patients will then be interviewed by qualified staff, to collect more detail regarding the precise circumstances of the injury – for example, where did it happen, what was the person doing at the time, what object(s) was/were involved, were other people present? In addition, a touch-screen system may also be created to enable patients to fill in their own records.
Considerable emphasis is being placed on ensuring patient confidentiality throughout the project.
Errol Taylor said: "At RoSPA, we're passionate about injury causation data and so we were thrilled that support for the issue of data collection was given in such a proactive way."
While the research is ongoing, RoSPA, ESC and Intertek RAM are keeping in touch with a diverse range of stakeholders ranging from politicians and insurers to healthcare providers and accident prevention practitioners. A key challenge for all will be to assess the value of the new injury causation data against the known costs of data collection.