UK National Drowning Prevention Strategy

The First UK National Drowning Prevention Strategy was launched in February 2016 by Robert Goodwill MP, Minister of State for Transport.

Why the strategy is needed and the overall aim

Drowning strategyDrowning is a leading cause of accidental death (400 deaths a year, all ages). Some individuals survive drowning events, but many are left with life-changing injuries. The lack of oxygen can result in severe brain damage.   

The overall aim of the strategy is to reduce accidental drowning fatalities in the UK by 50% by 2026 and reduce risk amongst the highest risk populations, groups and communities.

The strategy covers children, young people and adults and was developed by The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), a body that brings together a diverse group of organisations with an interest in drowning prevention and water safety and was inspired by a World Health Organization report which called for action of water safety.

Priority targets - first 36 months

  • Every child should have the opportunity to learn to swim and receive water safety education at primary school and where required at Key Stage 3
  • Every community with water risks should have a community-level risk assessment and water safety plan
  • To better understand water-related self-harm
  • Increase awareness of everyday risks in, on and around the water
  • All recreational activity organisations should have a clear strategic risk assessment and plans that address key risks.

The strategy emphasises the need for a collaboration between a wide range of organisations across sectors and invites supporters to make a pledge online to contribute to the work.

Drowning risks for children and young people

The National Water Safety Forum’s data for drowning in the UK shows that 38 children and young people (0-19) died in 2014. The pool, pond and bath are the main risks for young children, and natural water (rivers, the sea, harbours and reservoirs) as they get older. 

Source: National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), June 2015 

More information

Updated April 2018