Firefighters have urged people to “think twice” before hosting their own Bonfire Night displays after figures revealed thousands of people visited A&E with fireworks injuries over the last five Octobers and Novembers.
Exclusive NHS Digital figures obtained by the JPIMedia Data Unit show at least 3,591 people attended A&E in England with a firework-related injury over the Halloween and Bonfire months between 2015 and 2019.
That number could be as high as 3,657, as some smaller figures have been suppressed to protect patient identities.
NHS Digital added a change in recording practices could be behind a drop in fireworks injuries over the past year, so the true number is likely to be higher still.
Patients were admitted to hospital between 416 and 752 times because of the extent of their injuries. A patient could be admitted more than once for ongoing treatment.
In Wales, there were 30 admissions over the same period, while Scottish hospitals recorded 31.
Neil Odin, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s prevention committee, said the Bonfire Night period was “notoriously busy” for the UK’s fire and rescue services.
But with big displays cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, he fears this year could see a surge in injuries as people attempt to create their own fireworks fun – and added pressure on an already strained NHS .
“Normally we advise people to attend a professionally organised display because we know they are safer with very few significant injuries occurring and appropriate first aid is always available on site,” he said.
“This year, however, as we all know, is very different. The pandemic means more families may try to hold displays at home perhaps without the experience of having handled fireworks before.
“We ask people to think twice about whether they need to have a display at home and instead look to other ways of celebrating Bonfire Night with their immediate families.”
Yvonne Wilson, a consultant plastic surgeon and chair of the British Burns Association, added: “Every year around this time we see an increase in the number of burns accidents as a result of fireworks that require ongoing medical treatment.
“The anticipated increase in home displays may also lead to an increase in these types of injuries which can be devastating for families, so we urge caution.”
Firework accidents can result in extensive and “life-changing” trauma to the hands and face, according to Mark Henley, president of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, with patients often requiring multiple rounds of complex surgery.
The English region that saw the most fireworks-related injuries is the South East, where 1,060 people found themselves in A&E over the last five Octobers and Novembers.
That was followed by London, with 692. Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the fewest visits, at 171.
Mr Odin added that anyone going ahead with their own display should plan very carefully, buy suitable, legal fireworks, and ensure they have enough space to make their celebrations safe.
There were a minimum of 17,395 A&E visits and 607 admissions recorded across England for fireworks injuries across the entirety of 2015 to 2019.