The argument for action

October 2012

Accidents are second only to cancer as a leading cause of death for children and young people in England.

Children playing football

By getting involved in Making the Link, you can help to reduce the numbers of children and young people killed or injured as a result of accidents.

Below you will find an overview which explains why this work is so important, as well as a guide to getting started.

Childhood accidents: the facts

The financial cost

The emotional cost

Government policy on child accident prevention

Working together for safer children


Childhood accidents: the facts


  • In 2007, 398 under 18s died as a result of accidents.
  • In 2008-9, 101,000 were admitted to hospital because of accidents.
  • Children from deprived families are 13 times more likely to be killed in accidents, more likely to be admitted to hospital because of accidents, and more likely to suffer severe injuries than other children.


The financial cost of childhood accidents

In 2006-07, emergency hospital admissions due to childhood accidents cost the NHS £131 million. Visits to accident and emergency departments cost a further £146 million a year.

Every day a child spends in hospital due to an accident costs the NHS £233. This rises to:

  • £750 a day for a bed in a specialist burns unit
  • £2,500 a day for a bed in a burns centre intensive care unit

Serious accidents also have very high long term costs for the NHS. The British Burn Association estimates that, in one year, children who have suffered serious bathwater scalds generate lifetime treatment costs for the NHS of £6.7 million.

What’s more, the overall cost of accidents is far higher than just the direct cost to the NHS. In 2007, the average direct cost of absence from work was £517 per employee per working day. Parents of a child who has suffered a serious bath water scald may need to take up to 60 days off work, at a total cost of more than £30,000.


The emotional cost of childhood accidents


The emotional trauma of accidental injuries can be devastating to the children who suffer.

  • Burns and scalds can mean a child needs years of painful skin grafts and may still be scarred for life.
  • Road accidents and other serious events can cause post-traumatic stress, seriously harming a child’s mental health and education.
  • Head injuries can leave a child with permanent brain damage.

“My physical injuries are plain for all to see but I have others that cannot be seen. I was robbed of my childhood because I had to grow up and face things that none of my friends had to face”

Darren, 17.

Darren was just six months old when he suffered severe scalding in a hot bath. Since then he has undergone 59 major operations and numerous minor operations.  


The parents of children who are killed or seriously injured in accidents frequently suffer from post-traumatic stress. Over a third of parents whose child has been injured in an accident suffer one month after the accident. And 15% of parents are still suffering six months later.

"It took just a moment for this terrible accident to happen, it turned our world upside down and we will all live with the consequences for the rest of our lives."

Vicki, mother of Joseph.

Joseph suffered severe scalds from bathwater when he was just two and a half years old.


Government policy on child accident prevention

The starting point: Healthy Lives, Healthy People - the public heath white paper Reflecting this ‘lifecourse’ approach to health improvement and reducing inequalities, the Public Health White Paper focuses on making a difference in the early years (‘starting well’) and action that can be taken as children develop and then move into the teenage years associated with greater levels of risk-taking (‘developing well’).

The public health white paper is supported by a draft Outcomes Framework which include these proposed indicators:

  • Hospital admissions caused by unintentional and deliberate injuries to under 5 years olds
  • Hospital admissions caused by unintentional and deliberate injuries to 5 – 18 year olds

Find out more in the policy section


Working together for safer children

Accident prevention amongst children and young people - A priority review highlights how partnership work is a major driver for success. Creative partnership projects that pool resources and share opportunities can make a real difference at local level:

“Stakeholders reasoned that, as a complex public health and behaviour change programme, unintentional injury can only be effectively tackled through a partnership approach.”

By getting involved in Making the Link, and building productive partnerships in your area, you can help to reduce the numbers of children and young people killed or hospitalised as a result of accidents. If you want to help champion this work in your area, look at the guide to accident prevention which will give you hints about how to get started.

Updated July 2013