Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Major onslaught on accidents
Children may be taught about accident prevention
The government plans to reduce the number of accidents in England by 20% in the next 10 years, saving up to 12,000 lives.
Young people and the elderly are the major targets of the prevention strategy since they are the most likely to risk death or injury as a result of accidents.
Accidental injury is the leading cause of deaths about young people and children in England.
As part of the Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation White Paper, Health Secretary Frank Dobson announced a Task Force to target accidents and a health skills programme for 14 to 16 year olds and adults, aimed at teaching them the basics of first aid and health.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust says almost 400 children in England and Wales die every year because of falls, road accidents and other injuries.
Some 2.5 million a year are admitted to hospital and the cost to the NHS of treating injuries sustained by both children and adults is estimated at £1.2bn a year.
The government says England has lower death rates from road accidents than most of its European counterpart, but a higher rate of pedestrian accidents.
There is also a big variation in how different types of accident affect different parts of the country.
For example, rural areas have more road accidents.
Elderly people are among the most likely to suffer from accidents in the home. A third of all accidents to adults occur in the home, mostly as a result of trips or falls.
Some 2,000 elderly die each year as a result of falls, according to the government, and many have to be admitted to hospital.
The government recently launched an awareness campaign to cut the number of accidents.
The White Paper mentions a range of multi-agency measures for reducing accidents, including traffic calming, safer school routes, more careful equipment design, training children and parents together about road safety and better, faster treatment and care for people who have accidents.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) welcomed the focus on accidents, but said it wanted to see more detail about the health skills programme.
Education adviser Martin Gomberg said: "First aid is not prevention. It is more important to have the skills to reduce the need for first aid in the first place.
"We are always anxious to see that any health promotion activity which helps people deal with the consequences of accidents also includes preventing them from happening in the first place."
But the National Association of Head Teachers says parents should take the lead on accident prevention.
It is worried the health skills programme will imply extra work for already stretched teachers.
ROSPA said accident prevention was already on the National Curriculum, but needed strengthening.
The society currently produces teaching material for use in school, including a pack on hazards in the home.
It has a 'hunt the hazard' component where children are encouraged to spot common accident problems, such as overloaded plug sockets.