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Greater Glasgow Health Board, the statutory organisation responsible for commissioning health services in Scotland's largest city, became increasingly uneasy in 1997 at the rising tide of hospital admissions of children who had ingested medicines. In response, they launched an end of the year awareness raising campaign jointly with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. The initiative aimed to focus on the dangers to children, particularly those under 5, of accidental poisoning and to promote the safe storage of medicines at home. A key message was that all children, regardless of social background, are potentially at risk. A packed press conference in November heard the head pharmacist of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill, sheepishly confess that his own preschool child had found and swallowed some paracetamol tablets!
The campaign received widespread exposure in the local media, though its impact on the incidence of ingestions remains to be assessed. Health promotion and public relations experts drew their background information from a number of sources including the recently established Yorkhill version of Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP). CHIRPP was able to confirm a real rise in children presenting to the accident and emergency department with ingestions rather than simply an increasing tendency of clinicians to admit such children to the inpatient wards. CHIRPP will also doubtless prove an invaluable means of evaluating the success of the campaign. This has yet again highlighted the crucial importance of having an efficient local injury surveillance on hand to provide appropriate information to safety professionals.
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