NHS issues ‘report, remove, rinse’ guidance for acid attack victims as ‘cowardly’ act on rise

Rachel Kearton, assistant chief constable for Suffolk Constabulary. Picture: NIGEL BROWN

Rachel Kearton, assistant chief constable for Suffolk Constabulary. Picture: NIGEL BROWN - Credit: Archant

Health experts have issued advice on what to do in the event of an acid attack as new figures show the number of assaults with a corrosive substance is on the rise.

In 2016, St Andrew’s Burns Centre in Essex helped more victims than it did over the previous 15 years.

Across England, the number of people requiring specialist medical support for an acid attack has risen from 16 in 2014, to 25 in 2015 and 32 last year.

The figures are expected to jump again this year.

In 2014, Lowestoft woman Adele Bellis was left with severe scarring and lost an ear after having sulphuric acid thrown over her.

On top of the devastating impact on those targeted, the NHS estimates the cost of care for every victim to be at £34,500.

The new ‘Report, Remove, Rinse’ guidance urges witnesses or victims to report the attack by calling 999, carefully remove contaminated clothing and immediately rinse skin in running water.

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Professor Chris Moran, national clinical director for trauma at NHS England, said: “Whilst this type of criminal assault remains rare, the NHS is caring for an increasing number of people who have fallen victim to these cowardly attacks.

“One moment of thoughtless violence can result in serious physical pain and mental trauma, which can involve months if not years of costly and specialist NHS treatment.”

Assistant chief constable of Suffolk Constabulary, Rachel Kearton, who is also the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for corrosive attacks, said a “very small” number of acid attacks had been reported to officers in East Anglia.

However, she added: “Crimes such as this, which can have such a dreadful impact on victims, should not go unreported. I would urge anyone who is a victim of this type of attack to report it to us so that we can deal with the matter positively and sensitively.”

The advice has been published by NHS England in partnership with the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS).

David Ward, president of BAPRAS, said assaults with corrosive substances could cause “severe pain, scarring which can be life-long, and can damage the sight, sometimes leading to blindness”, adding: “unfortunately these vindictive attacks are on the increase”.