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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 15:33 GMT


Nurses demand action on cycle helmets

Nurses have backed calls for action on cycle helmets

Nurses have backed a campaign to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory.

The Royal College of Nursing's annual congress in Harrogate backed a resolution calling on its leaders to lobby government to introduce legislation for the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets.

Doctors backed a similar motion at their conference last year, but they expressed doubts as to how protective helmets were.

Many cyclists groups are against compulsion.

Emotional plea

Nursing 99
Nurses heard an emotional plea from children's nurse Angela Lee who set up a charity to press for changes in the law on cycle helmets.

The Reading-based Bicycle Helment Initiative Trust (BHIT) was set up after Ms Lee nursed a boy who sustained severe head injuries after a cycle crash when he was not wearing a helmet.

Thirteen-year-old Philip Tribe died in Ms Lee's arms eight months after being knocked down by a car in 1992.

She told nurses: "He was gorgeous - with golden hair and not another mark on him.

"But his brain was like a mush. He had severe head injuries. We nursed him for eight months until he died in my arms."

Ms Lee was named Nurse of the Year in 1995 for her work in setting up the BHIT. Philip's father Roger helped her launch it and backed the RCN resolution.

He said: "I don't know, and no-one can ever know, if wearing a helmet would have saved Philip's life, but I do know the effect of him hitting a car and not wearing one."

The BHIT has joined forces with helmet-makers Bell to provide cut-price helmets to children.

The scheme, whereby parents collect a voucher and order a designer helmet for £8.50, will be launched in the next two weeks.

Opinion divided

Around 200 cyclists are kiled and 4,500 seriously injured on the roads in Britian each year.

Seventy per cent of those killed and 50% of people who are seriously injured suffered head injuries.

Researchers are divided on whether helmets prevent injury.

Research in Australia, where helmet-wearing is compulsory, is inconclusive because increased use of helmets has been accompanied by more education about the dangers of speeding.

The Cyclists' Rights Action Group argues that compulsion has made many cyclists give up a healthy form of transport and has given those who use helmets a false sense of security.

But a study done in Reading in 1992 noted that a campaign to boost cycle helmet use coincided with a 45% reduction in hospital admissions for head injuries following cycle accidents.

Ms Lee is firmly behind compulsion. She told nurses: "Helmets do work. They reduce the risk of brain injury by 90%. We need to educate children and parents to wear cycle helmets all the time."

The British Medical Association voted last year to look into the compulsion issue.

Its Board of Science is expected to publish a report on the issue in the next few months.

Issues being discussed include how much helmets protect the head and the practicalities of using legislation against cyclists who do not wear helmets - many of whom may be children.

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