Feature The BMJ Awards 2016

Prevention team

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1680 (Published 24 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1680
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. London, UK
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}btinternet.com

Nigel Hawkes meets five teams whose work shows the benefits of early detection and prevention from birth through to old age

Not for Play: keep them away

In 2001 Procter and Gamble introduced liquitabs, brightly coloured squeezy capsules of liquid detergent for washing machines and dishwashers. Other manufacturers followed. Marketed in transparent packaging to appeal to customers, liquitabs also proved a lure for their children.

In 2011-12, Glasgow Children’s Hospital admitted nine children with airway injuries resulting from ingesting liquitabs. One child required major reconstructive surgery. NHS Glasgow and Clyde launched an awareness and prevention campaign, after investigations into the incidents found that parents were storing liquitabs in cupboards under the kitchen sink that were accessible to their children.

“The aim of the Not for Play programme was to provide an information pack for every family with an infant 12 to 16 weeks of age,” says Lesley Nish, senior health improvement officer at the board. The packs are delivered by the health visiting team as part of home visits. “It’s very much a solution focused approach. They can also supply families with cupboard catches or, if these can’t be used, discuss other ways of keeping children away from detergents. Parents are horrified when they are told about the dangers.”

Around 16  000 cupboard catches have been distributed each year, and admissions of children damaged by liquitabs in Glasgow have fallen from nine to one a year. The programme is set to continue into 2017. Since 2015 new EU rules have mandated non-transparent packaging and child resistant closures, together with formulation changes that slow the rate of dissolution and include a bitter taste so that a child will spit the liquitab out rather than swallow it.

The Not for Play programme has not only prevented injury but saved money. The costs of treating nine children totalled £175 500 …

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