In search of solutions to the healthcare crisis - can accident prevention save the NHS?

In search of solutions to the healthcare crisis - can accident prevention save the NHS?

The President of the College of Emergency Medicine will deliver an annual safety lecture today, setting out how accident prevention can relieve the pressure on A&E.

Dr Clifford Mann, whose organisation represents more than 4,000 emergency department doctors and consultants, will give the annual Allan St John Holt Memorial Lecture, hosted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and Royal Mail.

Addressing an audience of doctors, representatives of the UK’s leading safety organisations, safety and health professionals and business leaders, Dr Mann will outline how A&E attendances due to preventable injuries are impacting the health service, and how reducing them would relieve pressure on the NHS frontline.

With 21.7million A&E attendances in England each year, of which up to a third are due to accidents, he will argue that accidental injury is a problem that has not yet been solved.

While some areas, such as road, occupational and rail safety, have seen significant reductions in injuries, Dr Mann will say that these successes have not yet been translated into the home and leisure spheres, with accidents remaining a major issue for the young, as well as frail older people. Accidents are also the leading cause of death up to the age of 40, and the leading cause of Preventable Years of Life Lost (PrYLL) up to the age of 60.

Compared to other health priorities, such as ischemic heart disease, stroke, cancer and COPD, action on accidents can yield much earlier results and herein lies the difference that accident prevention can make to the NHS, Dr Mann will say. Evidence also shows it works.

While there remains a place for some physical interventions to prevent accidents, he will say that the big challenges are education and behaviour change, with sustained investment needed in these areas. And, with two-thirds of injuries to working age people happening away from work, he will say that there is huge scope for employers to help their employees, plus their families and local communities, to stay safe outside of working hours. Smarter solutions to accident data collection and analysis are also needed to provide insights into the UK’s accident problem, on which future interventions can be based.

Ahead of the lecture, Dr Mann said: “Not only would preventing accidents reduce the number of people suffering their painful and often traumatic consequences, but it would also translate into significantly reduced pressure on our struggling A&E departments. As yet, however, accident prevention is a largely untapped resource for relieving this pressure. There is a very real opportunity to reduce the toll of easily preventable suffering if government, the NHS, safety organisations, employers, unions and others came together to provide the accident prevention help that families desperately need.”

The annual lecture, taking place in London, commemorates the life and work of Allan St John Holt OBE, who was influential in the field of safety and health, and was group head of safety at Royal Mail Group at the time of his death in 2007. The safety charity RoSPA and Royal Mail host the event to stimulate fresh thinking about accidents and ill health.

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