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Burn admissions rise during lockdown

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has raised concerns that the number of contact burns from heating appliances have skyrocketed by 25% and scalding incidents from taps by 9%.

The NHS Digital Hospital Episode Statistics for England 2019-2020 show:

Admissions for burn injuries caused via contact with heating appliances, radiators and pipes rose by 25% from 797 (2018-2019) to 999 admissions (2019-2020).

Likewise, finished consultant episodes for heating burns were up by 24% from 838 to 1,042 over the same period.

A staggering 878 - nearly 88% - of heating appliance burn admissions were emergencies.

Children aged 0-14 made up 28% of finished consultant episodes, while those over 70 made up 36%. If you combine these figures, nearly 65% of burns from heating appliances afflicted children and the elderly.

As heating professionals know, it’s all too easy for radiators, towel warmers and central heating pipes to reach temperatures high enough to cause a burn if touched. A burn injury is for life with scars that are physical as well as psychological. Burns often result in life-long challenges for the individual and their families, making it all the more tragic that the majority of injuries occur as a result of an accident that could have been prevented.

It seems that with us all having to spend more time at home, the risk of becoming a burn or scald statistic this winter is rising. Worryingly, the peril of scalds from hot tap water has grown also:

Admissions from scald injuries from taps has increased by nearly 9% from 635 cases (2018-2019) to 693 cases (2019-2020).

In turn, finished consultant episodes grew from 648 to 714 over the same period, a rise of 10%.

Alarmingly 561 admissions - nearly 81% - were classed as emergencies.

And sadly yet again, children and the elderly are the most at risk, with children in the 0-14 age range accounting for nearly 38% of finished consultant episodes and the over 70s accounting for nearly 21%. These numbers combined account for 59% of scalds from taps.

This paints a truly alarming picture. Medical professionals count bath water scalds among the worst injuries anyone can suffer, with scalding injuries every bit as painful and destructive as burns suffered by victims of fires or explosions. 

Kevin Wellman, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering said: “This year’s NHS Hospital Episode Statistics for England show the most vulnerable in society continue to be at a grave risk from household scalds and burns. With the elderly often living alone, in older homes, that feature outdated plumbing technology, those who are facing having to shield in a potential second wave of COVID-19 are at particular risk. This, amongst a background of weak legislation on TMVs and poor public knowledge, is likely to lead to further avoidable burn and scald injuries as the pandemic ensues.”

“Recognising it is vital we spend more time indoors to halt the spread of coronavirus, it’s never been more important that installers help to educate householders – especially those with young, elderly or disabled occupants – so they know the risks posed by contact burns and scalding. Heating season is upon us, so we are encouraging consumers to act now to ensure their heating and hot water systems are safe and regularly maintained.”

As we celebrate National Burn Awareness Day on 14 October, the CIPHE is urging the Government once again to extend the legislation on TMVs to make their use compulsory in all homes and to ensure that all those working on plumbing and heating systems are qualified and competent to do so.

Kevin concluded. “In the meantime, we need to do what we can within the industry to educate the public on the importance of burn and scald awareness. It’s essential the message gets through on both installing and regularly maintaining TMVs, along with regular health checks on plumbing and heating systems in the home.”

12 October 2020

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