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Contact: Dr. Hilary Glover
hilary.glover@biomedcentral.com
44-203-192-2370
BioMed Central

Counting the cost of cold winters: Emergency treatment for falls on snow and ice

During the winter of 2009-2010 the average temperature for the UK was 1.6 degrees centigrade (C), making it the coldest recorded winter in the last 30 years. Using winter data from 2005 to 2010, new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health demonstrates an inverse relationship between temperature and the number of falls on snow and ice, which result in emergency admission to hospital, and looks at the cost of these falls.

Researchers from the North West Public Health Observatory, based at the Centre of Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, compared data from the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), which record the number of emergency hospital admissions, with weekly average temperature readings from UK's Meteorological Office across England. The results showed that hospital admissions due to falls on snow and ice increased with age, and that men age 85 and over were especially vulnerable, with more than one in 1000 likely to be admitted to hospital due to falls. Of the five winters studied 2009-2010 had the highest number of emergency admissions due to falls on snow and ice, 18 times more than the lowest (2007-2008). In 2009-2010 these admissions cost the health service 42 million GBP.

Comparing the HES regional data to geographically corresponding temperature data it became apparent that as temperature fell there was an exponential increase in the weekly rate of admissions. It also became apparent that when temperatures fell below 1C the model underestimated the number of falls. Consequently the cost of colder winters could be much higher than predicted.

Dr Caryl Beynon said, "The total cost of these accidents to the health services is like to be much higher than reported here. This is because the calculation does not include patients who went to hospital but were not admitted, nor patients who went to their GP or pharmacist, or visited a 'walk-in' centre. It also does not address the long-term costs of rehabilitation or recuperation in a nursing home. With responsibility for health improvement moving to local councils, they will have to balance the cost of winter public health measures, like gritting, with the healthcare costs associated with falls."

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Notes to Editors

1. The cost of emergency hospital admissions for falls on snow and ice in England during winter 2009/10: a cross sectional analysis
Caryl Beynon, Sacha Wyke, Ian Jarman, Mark Robinson, Jenny Mason, Karen Murphy, Mark A Bellis and Clare Perkins
Environmental Health (in press)

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

2. Environmental Health is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles on all aspects of environmental and occupational medicine and related studies in toxicology and epidemiology.

3. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

4. The North West Public Health Observatory (NWPHO) (www.nwpho.org.uk) provides information and intelligence on the health of the population of the North West region and is based at the Centre for Public Health (www.cph.org.uk), Liverpool John Moores University. The NWPHO also leads nationally on alcohol, drug misuse, violence prevention and dental health intelligence.

5. The Centre for Public Health based at Liverpool John Moores University, is a vibrant research and intelligence unit working with a range of partners and stakeholders at a local, national and international level, providing innovative, integrated and dynamic approaches to public health information to help improve wellbeing and reducing health inequalities. To find out more visit www.cph.org.uk

6. For further information please contact: Caroline Hilliard, Communications Officer, Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University 0151 231 4535 c.j.hilliard@ljmu.ac.uk



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