Demand for NHS burns care soars over bonfire night and diwali

Top doctors from the NHS and St John Ambulance have teamed up to urge revellers to stay safe during Guy Fawkes Night and Diwali celebrations, as new figures reveal thousands end up in hospital each year due to firework and bonfire injuries.

According to figures from NHS Digital, there were almost 2,000 occasions of people going to A&E linked to fireworks in 2018/19.

And over the bonfire night and Diwali period last year, more than 35,000 people sought advice from the website on how to treat burns and scalds, a significant jump on usual numbers.

This peaked at over 2,800 visits on Sunday 4 November, compared to the daily average of 1,800 visits throughout the rest of the year.

While most people who come a cropper because of pyrotechnics can be patched up in A&E and sent home the same day, over the last five years there have been almost 1,000 hospital admissions relating to the discharge of a firework.

Nine out of ten of those cases were male, and injuries were most common amongst millennials – with 20-34-year olds accounting for more than one in three hospital spells.

Ahead of this year’s bonfire night, the NHS’ most senior A&E doctor is calling on the public to plan ahead and take care during the period covering Halloween, fireworks night and Diwali, and to use the NHS website and free NHS 111 phoneline and new web service for fast advice on how to get help if things do go wrong.

Health charity St John Ambulance is also urging everyone to learn some basic first aid skills to help prevent avoidable trips to hospitals and reduce pressure on the NHS.

Dr Cliff Mann, NHS National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, said: “We all want Diwali and fireworks night to go with a bang of dazzling lights, but people need to take care that their festivities don’t end up with the flashing blue lights of an NHS ambulance.

“So we’re urging people to remember remember the 5th of November for the right reasons, and take simple steps to stay safe, as well as learn some basic first aid skills.

“And while the NHS is always there for those who need it, people with minor illnesses and injuries can help frontline staff focus on those who need help most by getting free expert advice from the website, or the NHS 111 phone and online service.”

While injuries can happen at any firework displays, they are more common at private or family displays where trained first aiders won’t be on hand to help, so if you are hosting one, ensure that you have a first aid kit to hand in case an accident occurs.

Common injuries from fireworks or bonfires include burns and scalds to the head and hands, shock and eye injuries.

Dr Lynn Thomas, Medical Director at St John Ambulance, said: “Every year, our highly skilled volunteers keep local communities safe at firework events across the country. Attendees at these events can be reassured that expert help is on hand if they need it.

“For those celebrating at smaller community events, we would urge extreme caution and advise strictly following instructions when handling, lighting and watching fireworks. In those unfortunate instances when someone has a minor injury, knowing what to do and acting fast can prevent further harm and relieve suffering. However, always dial 999 in the case of serious injuries.”