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Rising number of acid attack victims being treated at Royal London Hospital’s new burns unit

PUBLISHED: 07:49 27 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:31 27 October 2017

Surgeons in a Royal London Hospital operating theatre. Picture: Barts NHS Health Trust

Surgeons in a Royal London Hospital operating theatre. Picture: Barts NHS Health Trust

Barts NHS Health Trust

Up to 150 people have now been treated for serious injury at the Royal London Hospital’s new emergency burns unit, the first to be attached to a major London trauma centre.

Preparing for specialist treatment at the Royal London. Picture: Barts NHS Health TrustPreparing for specialist treatment at the Royal London. Picture: Barts NHS Health Trust

The unit opened amid a rise in acid attacks, with 800 reported over the last five years in east London alone, is helping an average of four patients every week.

Most are victims of fires and road accidents—but a growing number are being treated for corrosive injury from chemicals.

One burns victim, Sergey Svircenkovs, was on holiday in Sri Lanka in February when he was severely injured when his clothing caught fire.

“My trousers fused with my skin around my ankle,” the 23-year-old Queen Mary University student recalled. “I was in the mountains with no access to medical help and had to treat the injury myself with aloe vera leaves.”

Burns victim Sergey Svircenkovs, 23, photographed just before his injury on holiday in Sri Lanka. Picture: Barts NHS Health TrustBurns victim Sergey Svircenkovs, 23, photographed just before his injury on holiday in Sri Lanka. Picture: Barts NHS Health Trust

Friends carried him down the mountain, but there was no medical help for miles. He had to cut short his holiday and immediately return to London on crutches and in pain.

Sergey was met by relatives who rushed him straight to the Royal London’s A&E at Whitechapel as soon as his plane touched down at Heathrow.

“I had to have surgery to transplant skin from my hip to my ankle which took just five minutes,” he added.

Sergey has been recovering at his home in Bethnal Green and is now able to walk for the first time since the accident in February.

A patient in recovery at the Royal London. Picture: Barts NHS Health TrustA patient in recovery at the Royal London. Picture: Barts NHS Health Trust

The burns unit, the first to be attached to a major London hospital trauma centre, is run by a specialist team of plastic surgery and burns consultants, located at the hospital to cut delays for treating patients who would have to be transferred to specialist units elsewhere.

Plastic surgery and burns consultant Ioannis Goutos said: “It is vital that patients get the best care quickly to reduce the risk of infection and have the best chance of minimising any long-lasting damage.

“Injuries caused by burns can be devastating, restricting limb movement or having visible scars.”

The team being expanded by Barts NHS Health Trust also assesses any psychological impact and offers help to cope with long-term effects of physical scars.

The Royal London is now coping with a growing number of acid attack injuries as well as burns caused by hazardous materials in the workplace, chemical spillages, fire and road accidents.

But victims are now getting quicker treatment by having the new burns unit in the same hospital complex as the accident and emergency department.

There is also a specialist department for tattooing or camouflage make-up to help the healing skin during rehabilitation.

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