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burns and scalds

In Burns, Heating, Scalding, Scalds

As National Burn Awareness Day makes a return on 12 October, NHS Digital reveals some worrying trends in its latest Hospital Episode Statistics for England. The figures for tap water scalds and central heating system related contact burns, shows a rise on last year’s totals, and prove that heating and hot water system injuries continue to pose a grave risk to households.

The NHS Digital’s Admitted Patient Care 2021-22 statistics show:

  • From 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022, there were 863 admissions for burn injuries caused via contact with heating appliances, radiators and pipes. Up nearly 6% on the previous year.
  • 748 - nearly 83% - of heating appliance burn finished consultant episodes were emergencies.
  • Babies and children aged 0-14 made up nearly 27% of heating appliance burn finished consultant episodes, while those over 70 made up 39%.
  • There were 668 admissions from scald injuries from taps, up nearly 11% on the previous year.
  • Of 578 finished consultant episodes, nearly 82% of tap scalds were classed as emergencies.
  • And sadly yet again, very young children and the elderly were the most at risk of scalding from taps, with children in the 0-14 age range accounting for 35% of finished consultant episodes, and the over 70’s accounting for 22%.

Kevin Wellman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) commented, “Every year we hear the horror stories. Every year we hope the NHS Digital figures show a meaningful reduction in scald and burn injuries. With a lack of robust legislation in place to protect households, installers are once again put in the position of educator, advising clients on heating and hot water safety. Consumers need to understand that the appliances providing warmth to their homes - radiators, towel warmers and central heating pipes - can 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 children. Burns and scalds often result in life-long challenges for the individual and their families. Tragically, most of these terrible injuries could be prevented with the use of Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TMVs), or precautions such as low surface temperature radiators.

“The figures show the most vulnerable in society continue to be in the most danger. The elderly and the young have thinner skin, increasing the severity of scalds and burns. In addition, the elderly are more likely to live in lone households, in older homes, that typically feature outdated plumbing technology. This year households face the impact of the cost of living and energy crisis. Those removing radiator covers, or moving furniture to expose radiators (and therefore hot pipework) to enhance heating system efficiency, may inadvertently increase potential for contact burns. Equally, those who cannot afford vital system checks and maintenance may find themselves at higher risk. With winter approaching, we as an industry need to help consumers become burns aware.”

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