New NICE Safety Guidance

Based on an article in Safety Education; Spring 2011

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published three pieces of complementary guidance which aim to help keep children and young people safe from serious harm.

Unveiled in November 2010, they consider: strategies to prevent unintentional injuries (PH:29); home safety assessments and the provision of safety equipment (PH30); and road design and modification (PH31).

RoSPA welcomed the new guidance, which covers England, and said it looked forward to working with NICE and other organisations to turn the recommendations into realities.

NICE's recommendations are based on evidence about measures which work to save lives and protect children from serious injuries.

Speaking at a briefing about the guidance, Prof Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, outlined the reasons behind the three documents. "Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death and serious injury in children and young people under 15," he said, before explaining that the guidance was aimed particularly at children from disadvantaged backgrounds. "These events are not evenly spread across the population," he said.

While the guidance focuses on measures which can prevent injuries and deaths, Prof Kelly also stressed that it was not over-the-top. "The intention behind this is not to try to create environments which wrap children up in cotton wool," he said. "Children need to be as safe as reasonable, not as safe as possible."

Prof Catherine Law, chairman of the Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee at NICE and professor of public health and epidemiology at the University College London Institute of Child Health, told the briefing about the road design and modification recommendations.

These include measures to reduce speed, such as 20mph limits and zones, and consulting children and young people to ensure they are implemented in the right places. "It makes sense to make these changes where children are – where they walk, where they live, where they play," she said. "And engineering measures should be considered for particular routes, not just particular streets."

Welcoming the guidance, RoSPA said it was delighted that its guiding principles – that minor injuries, such as bumps and bruises, are a normal part of childhood, and that life should be "as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible" – were recognised.

RoSPA also supports the focus given to injury surveillance as a vital tool in determining accident trends and prevention strategies, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions. The UK had a world-leading injury surveillance system until 2002 and, since then, RoSPA has campaigned for the re-instatement of data collection and analysis.

And in the road safety guidance, the focus on slowing down traffic in areas commonly used by children is welcomed by RoSPA.

There are a variety of leisure-related recommendations in the "strategies" guidance, including about the provision of water safety information during swimming lessons, something RoSPA has called for over a number of years.

In all three documents, RoSPA supports the general focus on preventing serious accidents to disadvantaged children who have, for a long time, been known to be one of the most vulnerable groups.

The guidance and quick reference guides are available online at:

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