Rise in acid attacks prompts calls for widespread first aid training

Doctors are calling for widespread public first aid training on how to immediately help victims of an acid attack following an increase in the number of attacks.

People who witness the attacks can have an "important role" in minimising the harm to the victim, doctors have said.

Writing in the British Medical Journal doctors say the "latest menace on our streets" is leaving victims blind or severely disfigured.

They suggest that corrosive substances now "seem to be a replacement for carrying knives".

The advice given is that after contaminated clothing is removed, it is "vital" that the affected area is irrigated with copious amounts of water to remove the chemical.

Over 400 corrosive substance attacks have been carried out in the six months leading up to April this year, according to figures from police forces in England and Wales.

The authors of the report wrote: "The attacks, involving a range of corrosive substances, have brought into sharp focus the need for clinicians, law enforcement officers, and our lawmakers to find ways to deal with this latest menace on our streets.

"Already 2017 has seen a big increase in acid attacks in the UK, relative to 2016. Whereas in the past most of the attacks were related to robberies, corrosive substances now seem to be a replacement for carrying knives.

"Corrosive substances are easy to conceal and have even been used in an attack in a courtroom, as well as in nightclubs."

They said that public education was needed on how to deal with the injuries sustained in an acid attack because immediate treatment can "substantially improve the outcome" for the patient.

Doctors also called for paramedics and health professionals in emergency departments to be given clear guidance on immediate steps to minimise secondary harm as well as training on how to deal with these devastating, life changing attacks.

"The victim should be removed from ongoing exposure as soon as possible. Irrigation of the affected area with copious amounts of water is vital to remove the chemical and should be performed as soon as possible to minimise the long-term effects of scarring and need for surgical reconstruction," wrote the authors.