Posts tagged ‘Government’

19 February, 2013

Getting to grips with an indoor mobility scooter – one man’s first-hand account

How many of you own a mobility scooter? RoSPA believes that outdoor mobility scooters fulfil a valuable and important function. However, as with all forms of transport, using mobility scooters create some risk, for both the users and for other people. We occasionally receive calls from people concerned about being nearly knocked down by mobility scooters in the street, and although these calls are relatively low in number, they do occur regularly.

mobility scooter injuries accidents

RoSPA believes that outdoor mobility scooters fulfil a valuable and important function. However, as with all forms of transport, using mobility scooters create some risk, for both the users and for other people.

There is little hard evidence about the extent of accidents and injuries involving outdoor mobility scooters, beyond occasional reports, and this makes it difficult to identify the most effective ways at preventing mobility scooter accidents. The Government recently committed to collecting more data and this is welcomed, as it will help to develop current initiatives to be more effective at preventing mobility scooter-related injuries and accidents.

We spoke to 87-year-old Dennis Brooks, who got in touch to share his experience of using indoor mobility scooters. This is his story:

“With the growing preponderance of elderly people in our population today, I would imagine statistics would show a matching increase in the number of accidents in the home.

Certainly I, an 87-year-old semi-invalid, now recognise the necessity for greater mental awareness in simple manoeuvres such as getting up from a chair, but many of us have also to consider various illnesses such as diabetes which can affect one’s balance or other abilities.

In recent years, this coming to terms with an ageing body has been accompanied with a desire to compensate: if I can’t move like I used to, let’s find some form of transport. And while we’re at it lets have some fun.

There are a wide range of scooters available today and the market is of course growing, especially in the second-hand section! I chose a lightweight model which enables me to get around the house as well as the garden and can be dismantled into four sections which can fit in the car boot. It cost £400 second-hand when new models were around £1,400. Today, I see it is available at £400 new. From the safety viewpoint, the first priority is to recognise that scooters, especially the lighter, nippier ones are more like a motorcycle to ride than a car: you have to be aware of your bodyweight, and there are no brakes, unless you have a class III which can be driven on the road under license, but those are not so suitable for home use.

Scooters are battery driven, and there is a very noticeable difference in handling them when the battery is freshly charged. The torque in the driving wheels can be quite surprising so that an unthinking driver might feel he’s had a good push in the back. This dissipates after a while, but it’s in a very dangerous state. More important I feel is the design of the forward/reverse controls. Looking along the handlebars from the side view of my scooter, these controls are around the ‘five o’clock’ position immediately in front of the user. When I want to reach a cupboard on the wall say, I sometimes stand up on the platform of my mobility scooter and l have been in a position many times when my clothing has touched the forward control. Yes, yes, of course. I should have switched off the controls, but as many people keep telling me: “You’re getting on a bit now, your memory’s going!” True. Which is why I feel the designers should take another look at this.”

Some guidance from our public health adviser Sheila Merrill:

It is important that professional advice is sought before buying any type of mobility scooter. If you intend to use an indoor mobility scooter, look around your home beforehand to make sure that you have the room to move around on it safely and that it will not be blocking any obvious escape routes. Walkways and main movement areas will need to be kept clear of clutter, it may also be best to remove rugs to allow for easier movement.

2 June, 2011

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. So said former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, at a time when healthy scepticism in the rhetorical use of numbers was all the rage – as well as stovepipe top hats and brightly striped pantaloons.

But much has changed since the late 19th-century – and not just the fashion.

Nowadays, the robust analysis of data is essential if your argument is to get a toe-hold in the collective consciousness (competing as it must with the X-Factor, Pippa Middleton, and the off-field antics of celebrity footballers).

But seriously, in an age of scarce resources every organisation worth their salt must now be providing a sophisticated response to the riddle, “where do we target resources?”

Here, at RoSPA, the answer to that question is staring us full in the face.

Accidents are responsible for 14,000 deaths and millions of injuries across the UK each year, costing the country an estimated £150billion. Yet, prevention is fairly easy to implement and inexpensive to deliver.

That’s why it is one of our key campaigns to make accident prevention a public health priority.

In a nutshell, here’s what we know about this “hidden epidemic”:

  • Accidents are the principal cause of death up to the age of 39 in the UK
  • Accidental injury continues to be the main cause of death for children after infancy
  • In 2009, one death in 40 in England and Wales was caused by an accident. Roughly three times as many people suffer a serious, life-changing injury as are killed
  • Among the causes of accidental death that have been increasing in recent years are falls, and accidental choking, strangulation and suffocation, particularly among older people
  • Accidents are financially costly to Government and society
  • Accident prevention is, compared to other potential public health interventions, easy to implement and inexpensive to deliver
  • The return on accident prevention investment, measured in Quality Adjusted Life Years, outstrips every other potential public health intervention.
  • Accidents diminish the lives of nearly a third of people in England

Following a lot of hard work in recent decades, big strides have been made in bringing down the number of people accidentally killed or injured on the road and at work. Yet, despite these significant gains, mortality statistics show that the overall trend for accidental death in the UK has been generally upwards in the last few years.

Accidents do not just cause immediate pain and suffering to the victim. Grief can last a lifetime and divorce and family breakdown are recognised as potential consequences of serious accidents. Families can suffer extreme financial hardship and the stress and strain of caring for an injured loved one should not be underestimated.

Despite RoSPA’s consistent lobbying – along with the work of many other organisations – accident prevention has remained a worryingly low priority for successive governments and has still not received the level of attention it deserves.

Several times in the last two decades, accidents have been listed as a priority by the Department of Health. But when there is a change of minister, the impetus often slows and suddenly the topic is dropped. Without government leadership and vocal support, others will not keep up the momentum.

In November 2010, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced the Coalition Government’s plans for public health in England, including the establishment of a new integrated service, called Public Health England.

RoSPA welcomed the opportunity to respond to the White Paper, Healthy Lives, Healthy People: our strategy for public health in England, and two associated consultations. However, the White Paper’s lack of recognition of the accidental injury problem, including its distribution, severities, costs or preventability, was of great concern. The focus instead was on other issues, such as alcohol-related ill health, diet, exercise and mental health.

In responding to the consultation, RoSPA put together the most comprehensive policy paper about accident prevention as a public health issue in its 94-year history. You can read RoSPA’s full consultation response (PDF 343kb) here.

RoSPA urges the Government and other leaders in the public health field to reflect on the many arguments which, taken together, constitute an unassailable case for developing fresh action on accident and injury prevention. Only by making such action a permanently-embedded feature of public health policy and practice in the UK will we be able to get on with our mission: which is to save lives and reduce injuries.

If you are as concerned as we are by this lack of action, please visit our public health campaign webpage and click on the big red “Support Our Campaign” button.

Your support – and the support of your friends and colleagues – would be much appreciated.

Michael Corley

RoSPA’s Campaigns Manager

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