Kevin Wellman, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), warns that scalding and central heating system related contact burns continue to pose a grave risk to households, as NHS Digital reveals its latest hospital admissions data.
The NHS Digital Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity 2020-21 for England shows:
• Between 1st April 2020 and 31st March 2021, there were 812 admissions for burn injuries caused via contact with heating appliances, radiators and pipes.
• A staggering 737 - nearly 91% - of heating appliance burn finished consultant episodes were emergencies.
• Babies and young children aged 0-4 made up 22% of finished consultant episodes, while those over 70 made up 38%.
• There were 602 admissions from scald injuries from taps.
• Alarmingly, 553 finished consultant episodes - nearly 92% - were classed as emergencies.
• And sadly yet again, very young children and the elderly are the most at risk, with children in the 0-4 age range accounting for 24% of finished consultant episodes and the over 70’s accounting for 24%.
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. Likewise, hot bath water is responsible for the highest number of fatal and severe scalding injuries among young children. Burns and scalds 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.
Mr Wellman said: “The figures from NHS Digital remain far too high and the most vulnerable in society continue to be at a grave risk from household scalds and burns. The number of very young children being afflicted with injuries is tragic - especially as most incidents will have been avoidable with the use of thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs), or having precautions such as low surface temperature radiators in place. We know that when it comes to the elderly, we are often looking at lone households in older homes, that typically feature outdated plumbing technology. This puts elderly households at much higher risk, which isn’t helped by weak legislation on TMVs.”
He continued: “This isn’t a new problem. The numbers show that over the last eight years, there has been over 51,000 finished consultant episodes bed days due to scalds and burns combined. Ultimately, poor public knowledge of scalding and contact burn related injuries means we still don’t have the issue under control. With winter approaching, and the vulnerable more likely to stay indoors due to the pandemic, installers are very much at the front line of educating households in heating and hot water system safety - especially those with young, elderly or disabled occupants. Without robust legislation, it’s once again down to the industry to help teach and protect the public.”
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