Friday, 8 July 2011

Mixer Valves Could Save Millions in Health Costs

By Ben Aulakh

Installing temperature controlled water mixer valves in social housing in the United Kingdom, could save the NHS more than £3 million in treating injuries from scalding, new research has shown.

Published in the online journal, Injury Prevention, the data shows that the £250, 000 average lifetime cost of treating 2600 bath water scalds each year could save a total of more than £61 million.

The study’s authors based their findings on families with children under the age of five, living in homes in Glasgow, Scotland, provided by Europe’s largest provider of social housing.

Children under the age of five are at particular risk of bath water scalds, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are more than three times as likely as their more affluent peers to require hospital treatment for burns and scalds.

The study estimated that there are around 582,700 social housing households in the UK with young children at risk of bath water scalds.

New building regulations, which took effect in England and Wales in April 2010, stipulate that the hot water supply to any fixed bath must not exceed 48 degrees centigrade in new build properties.

However thermostats on home water heaters are often set at 60°C or above, a temperature at which adults can easily sustain partial of full thickness burns after just three to five seconds of contact with water.

The authors add that young children are even more quickly affected by contact with water of this temperature.

Thermostatic mixer valves on bath taps are one way of addressing the new requirement, they say, however it is not clear how cost effective this approach would be.

Initial estimates from the study show that if the average cost of installing a valve at £13.68, were applied to all 582,700 households social households in the UK, it would cost around £7.9 million.

This estimate was based on the costs of buying, installing, and maintaining thermostatic mixer valves in new build or completely refurbished properties.

The data shows that a 68 per cent reduction in the risk of scalding would reduce the likelihood of a child under 5 requiring hospital treatment for five or more days to 1 in 12398.

This would cut the risk of a shorter hospital stay to 1 in 16,186, and the risk of emergency treatment to 1 in 2788.

Avoiding the expected 444 scalds a year among children in these homes would save the NHS £11.2 million, an overall saving of £3.3 million.

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