When it comes to accidents, the home is the most dangerous place to be. Every year, more than 6,000 people are killed due to unintentional injuries sustained in the home environment, and it’s the most vulnerable family members – the under-5s and the over-65s – who are most at risk.
Andrew Tromans, PR and media officer at RoSPA, sat down Dr Julian Redhead, medical director at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, to talk about how, by preventing common accidents in the home, we can reduce the burden on our health service.
Andrew: What kind of common accidents in the home can result in a hospital admission?
Dr Redhead: Each year, falls on level surfaces result in 124 deaths, 48,600 hospital admissions and more than 600,000 A&E attendances. I see the reality behind the figures – in almost every shift my colleagues and I will treat patients who have been injured as a result of a fall. More often than not, it is the elderly and children under the age of five who experience falls.
Andrew: What sort of impact can common accidents in the home, such as a fall, have on a patient?
Dr Redhead: Having a fall, especially if you're an older person, can have a devastating effect on your quality of life. As well as the physical consequences, falls can destroy confidence leading to loneliness, isolation and a loss of independence. One of the common injuries that occur as a result of a fall is a hip fracture. Almost every shift at an A&E department will see at least one older person admitted because of this. For a frail person, a hip fracture can easily become fatal injury as it may complicate existing conditions.
Andrew: What preventative measures could be put in place to help prevent accidents in the home?
Dr Redhead: There are lots of things people can do retrofit their homes to make them safer. One example of this would be to fit a lock onto cupboards which contain cleaning products. Another is putting handrails in the bathroom to help prevent slips and falls among older people. However, if homes were designed to be safer to begin with that would make a huge difference. This is why I endorse RoSPA’s Safer by Design framework which is full of practical and low-cost recommendations to improve safety in the home.
Andrew: Can you give an example of how accident risk might be reduced by implementing RoSPA’s Safer by Design framework?
Dr Redhead: Not so long ago, a little girl came into hospital with severe burns. The doorbell went while the girl’s dad was making dinner. Dad had switched on the hob to boil some pasta- he only stepped away from the kitchen for a few seconds but sadly this was enough time for the girl to place her little hand on the hob. Luckily, she was taken to A&E and was treated promptly and will make a strong recovery. Sadly, burns from hot surfaces account for about four deaths, 1,700 hospital admissions and about 22,000 A&E attendances each year. Some of these accidents could be avoided by putting in place some simple design features such as installing induction hobs and guards around fireplaces. These are both reccomended in the Safer by Design framework.
Andrew: How did you become involved with RoSPA?
Dr Redhead: RoSPA uses its expertise to provide information and advice to prevent unintended injury. So really, in a manner of speaking, they are trying to save me work! If we can prevent more accidents happening in the first place we can reduce the burden on our health service. It was a very natural fit for me to get involved with the work of RoSPA.
Dr Julian Redhead is also a trustee of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
Posted: 3/6/2020 12:55:17 PM