Burns units issue bonfire night warning as West Country hospitals face mounting pressure

People are being urged to only go to organised firework displays. Credit: ITV News

Burns specialists in the South West are urging people to take extra care this weekend if attending bonfires and firework displays.

Over the past decade, around 40 people each year have needed treatment at specialist burns units as a result of fireworks accidents, and 100 as a result of bonfire accidents.

Specialist burns services in Plymouth, Salisbury and Bristol (adults at Southmead Hospital, children at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children) see the most patients, whilst those with the worst injuries will generally be transported to the Adult Burns Centre for the South West, based at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

South West figures show that 394 people have been treated by the five burns units for firework injuries over the past decade, with 35 per cent aged 14 or under.

The South West burns units also treated 1,040 people for bonfire injuries over the same period.

Mr Jeremy Yarrow, a burns consultant and plastic surgeon said: “Every year, hospitals in the South West see the results when bonfires and fireworks go wrong.

"Burns can be horrific, even fatal, so we’d urge everyone to follow the RoSPA guidance and the firework code -especially when there are children around.

“Go to a properly organised event if possible, and if you can’t, then please make sure you buy licensed fireworks and follow all the instructions.

“People tend to think it can’t happen to them. But every year, it does happen, to children and adults alike.”

100 people a year are injured as a result of bonfire accidents Credit: ITV News

The warning comes as hospitals in the region are experiencing 'exceptionally busy' emergency departments.

In the last 24 hours, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has urged people to attend their nearest urgent treatment centre or minor injuries unit if their condition is not a life-threatening injury or illness.

The emergency department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital issued a warning on the morning of Sunday 5 November revealing it had already seen more than 70 people in attendance with estimated waits of more than 3 hours.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advises that the safest place to enjoy fireworks this weekend is at a large public display, as the risk of being injured is much lower than at smaller family or private parties.

It also provides advice on its website on how to stay safe around sparklers, bonfires and fireworks.

Figures from NHS England show that the number of people visiting the burns and scalds advice page of the NHS website increases by a quarter (27%) during the weekend of bonfire night. The page provides first aid advice on treating burns and scalds, such as:

  • Getting the person away from the heat source immediately

  • Removing any clothing or jewellery near the burnt skin

  • Cooling the burn with cool or lukewarm running water for 20 to 30 minutes, and not using iced water or any creams or greases like butter

  • Keeping the person warm with blankets, not touching the burnt area

  • Once the burn is cool, cover it with cling film or a clean plastic bag

  • Using painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat any pain

  • Raising the affected area to reduce any swelling

  • Dialling 999 for acid or chemical burns, removing contaminated clothing and rinsing the burn with as much clean water as possible.