The multi-billion pound burden of accidents at home

As safe as houses: our homes are supposed to be the safest places in the world. Somewhere we can feel secure, and keep our families safe from harm. Right?

Hopefully, most of the time, yes – but what most people don’t realise is that more accidents happen in the home than anywhere else.

Around 2.7million people will go to A&E this year as a result of an accident at home; some 5,000 people are likely to die as a result of an accident at home; and many more uncounted Britons will visit their GP as the result of an accident at home.

The cost to society is enormous. You may want to sit down before you read on…

The total annual cost of home accident casualties who are treated for their injuries at hospital – around 2.7million people each year – is estimated to be £45.63billion (£45,630million), based on an average cost of £16,900 per victim.

That’s £45.63billion. And that’s probably a gross underestimate.

This figure does not include the cost of home accident deaths, which, according to mortality figures from 2009, number in excess of 5,000 a year, and for which the cost per fatality is estimated at £1.61million.

So the total cost of fatalities is estimated to be £8billion. Each year.

And it does not include the cost of people who seek GP treatment after a home accident.

The multi-billion pound cost of home accidents is, quite simply, staggering. It would go some way towards reducing general government debt – put at £1000.4billion in 2009-10 – if we could stop all home accidents tomorrow.

It is a sad fact that overall accidental deaths have increased in recent years. Accidents typically associated with the home, such as falls, account for some of this rise. It is time to get serious about accident prevention, particularly in the home, which has been the Cinderella of safety for far too long because injuries are suffered behind closed doors.

This is not just about saving money – a strong argument, but one that will not stand by itself – but is a way of halting the misery that accidents inflict on so many in our communities. Some of the uncounted costs are to families who are damaged by accidents: they may lose their main wage earner; a family member may have to become a full-time carer for someone who has had an accident; and grief can be devastating and destructive, tearing families and communities apart.

RoSPA commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to conduct this latest valuation research, which updates a previous report from 1996, when the cost of home accidents resulting in A&E visits was estimated to be around £25.62billion.

The cost findings are based on: lost contribution to the economy (lost output); the value of avoidance of injury (the amount the community would be prepared to pay to avoid the chance of an injury happening); and the cost of medical, Social Security and other support services. Costs to the individual and long-term care are not included.

To put the home accident valuation in context: a report published by the Department for Transport earlier this year estimated the value of preventing road accidents in 2009 to be £30billion (when accidents reported and unreported to the police were considered).

Take a look at the TRL’s report: Re-valuation of Home Accidents and have a think about what we can all do to save lives and money at home.

Sheila Merrill

RoSPA’s Home Safety Manager for England

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