Childhood injury on the agenda

Toddler playing at nurseryOctober 2012

This section explains how accidental injuries fit into the wider public health agenda, and which accidents cause greatest harm to children.

It also describes how different types of accident link with the stages of children's development, and to their homes and wider surroundings.

In this section

Key facts about accidental childhood injuries

  • Accidental injury is one of the biggest killers of children, second only to cancer.
  • In 2009, 193 children and young people under 15 died in accidents in England and Wales.
  • In 2007–08, 105,000 children and young people under 18 were admitted to hospital as a result of unintentional injuries. 
  • Children from the poorest families are 13 times more likely to die from accidental injury and three times more likely to be admitted to hospital with serious injuries.
  • Save the Children research estimates that there were 1.7 million children living in poverty in 2007-08. That's around 13% of all UK children.

More child accident statistics

See our child accident statistics section for more key data.

Counting the costs of childhood accidental injury

On top of the human costs, pain and personal suffering, the overall burden of childhood accidents includes significant financial and social costs. The NHS spends millions of pounds treating preventable childhood accidents each year. In 2007, the health national report Better safe than sorry: Preventing unintentional injury to children stated that the cost of childhood A&E visits alone is £146 million.

The longer-term effects of some forms of injury can be serious. Research into death after head injury shows that this type of injury is associated with increased risk from death from a range of causes for at least 13 years following hospital admission. The risk is higher for younger adults aged over 15. Even apparently straightforward injuries can have more severe consequences. Fractures are frequent in childhood but delays in diagnosis and treatment can result in more serious harm. In 2011, a patient safety review of missed diagnoses of fractures in children highlighted the risk of harm arising from missed diagnoses of fractures in children.

The importance of follow-up care and local learning from injury surveillance are highlighted in the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health publication Standards for Children and Young People in Emergency Care Settings.

Injury costs to the NHS go beyond treatment itself. For example, demand for ambulance services is growing and is strongly linked to the increase in A&E admissions. Beds used for hospital admissions due to accidental injury can limit availability for patients with other needs and conditions.

The costs of child accidents

Our articles on the costs of child accidents analyse the financial and emotional costs of serious injuries including:


External links to other sites and policies were correct as of September 2012.

Updated September 2014