Accidents must be addressed as one of the country’s biggest killers, as entrenched public health priorities like cancer and heart disease have been for many years,Tom Mullarkey, the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said at the charity's annual meeting in Birmingham.
Mr Mullarkey described RoSPA’s ongoing battle to have accidents accepted on to the main stage of public health prioritisation, with a particular barrier posed by the unchallenged dominance of disease.
With accidents the number one cause of preventable, premature death up to the age of 60, ahead of other causes including preventable cancers, alcohol-related conditions, ischaemic heart disease and respiratory diseases, he says that there is a clear case for action to reduce them.
In his foreword to RoSPA’s Annual Review 2012/13, published for the meeting, Mr Mullarkey said that, while individual medics and public health specialists have been convinced by the figures, "the establishment is unmoved”.
"It is easy to see why,” he writes. "The current priorities are entrenched and defended by some of the most capable (and well-funded) lobbyists in the country. Who would dare to take on cancer and heart disease in these conditions of public opinion, even if new evidence said otherwise? In the last few decades, these causes of death have achieved an untouchable superiority in primacy which bears some inspection.”
He continues: "But there is one potential ally to our cause which none shall stand against - the NHS itself. The doubling of costs in a decade is just the superficial indicator of the deeper issue described more clearly in the doubling of A&E attendances. If the NHS is to survive, it must deal with this over-pressure. The bulk of the 21million A&E attendances in England are caused by accidents - for which we have already invented the cure. That cure is welcomed by the patient, is cheap and easy to administer and it works. In a project we ran between 2008 and 2010, in one area in Liverpool, we reduced hospital admissions in the 0-5 age group (the highest accident levels) by more than 50 per cent.”
Re-inventing and re-delivering Liverpool’s success in every part of the country, with people learning anew how to take responsibility for themselves and their loved ones, would represent "an organisational revolution in our healthcare system”, says Mr Mullarkey. Likening the case for accident prevention to other great discoveries and inventions for which the UK is known, he says: "It is time, we believe, to take these ‘radical’ but inescapable ideas through the buffers. If all great invention is based on first principle, then there is an immutable one: Prevention is far better than cure.”