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Scotland’s Drowning and Incident Review set to become one of world’s first

Tuesday January 10th 2023

Gladhouse-Reservoir-Midlothian-Drone-footage-Lee-Live

Gladhouse Reservoir, photograph by Lee Live.


Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

On average, 96 people lose their lives due to a water-related fatality each year in Scotland. For this reason, Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy aims to reduce accidental drowning deaths by 50 per cent by 2026, and in particular lessen the risk among the highest-risk populations, groups and communities. Each year, however, there are a number of water-related fatalities where very little is known about the circumstances and factors.

In order to help reduce accidental drownings, it is essential to understand the context and circumstances that lead to an incident. To address this need, the Drowning and Incident Review (DIR) has been created for Scotland. This innovative process is one of the world’s first and was created by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), in partnership with Water Safety Scotland (WSS).

DIR is a voluntary process that aims to ensure a comprehensive review of each suspected accidental water-related fatality. The principal aim of the process is to gather all relevant data and information in order to systematically review each incident with a view to prevent a future occurrence.

The benefits of DIR are anticipated at both local and national level in Scotland. DIR will provide insight into water-based risks by local area, ensuring that those best placed to mitigate these risks are involved in the process and kept informed. Nationally, the enhanced data capture is anticipated to lead to the development of better-informed national strategies to tackle the issue of drowning prevention.

DIR is still within its pilot phase, but recently the research evaluation has been published in BMJ Injury Prevention and was undertaken by Carlene McAvoy (RoSPA), Dr Jagnoor Jagnoor (George Institute for Global Health) and Dr Connie Hoe (John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Heidelberg University).

Some of the findings of the research include ensuring improved guidance for those involved in the DIR process, resourcing for future sustainability, robust processes for organisational involvement and the crucial need for political and legal support. SFRS and RoSPA are working to address these findings ahead of the anticipated DIR release date of Spring 2023.

Carlene McAvoy, Leisure Safety Manager of RoSPA and founder and secretariat of Water Safety Scotland said, “The DIR process that we have created for Scotland is one of the first of its type in the world. The findings from the study have provided us with really useful insight into the views and perspectives of key partners. There are clear points for learning from the research and we will take these on board in order to ensure that DIR works for our partners as well as for its future sustainability.

The research also highlighted that DIR will address some vital gaps in drowning prevention efforts, in a consistent and standardised way. The hope is that DIR will be a tool that can be used by water safety partners in Scotland, to enable them to learn from incidents and mitigate the risk of future incidents. This supports our overarching aim to reduce accidental drownings by 50 per cent by 2026.”

James Sullivan, Watch Commander, SFRS National Water Safety Group, added, “DIR aims to provide a clear and consistent post incident process that is vital for gaining an understanding of the events and contributory factors that led to a person entering the water.

This information will allow water safety partners to take meaningful measures that may reduce the likelihood of a similar event occurring and will also assist in national drowning prevention efforts.

This research was vital to ensure that our partners had the opportunity to shape the process that can now be used to improve water safety in Scotland.”

DIR aims to release Spring 2023.

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