Being treated at specialist burns services

This section covers:

  • Being sent to specialist burns services
  • Stays and visits to specialist burns facilities
  • Disruption to daily life, including being a parent
  • Relocating to be nearer to specialist burns services

When someone has a burn and requires treatment, they may need to go to a hospital which offers specialist burns care. Minor burns may be dealt with at a GP surgery or Accident and Emergency. For more complex burns, especially if the burn is quite serious or the person injured is vulnerable, hospital treatment may be required. Burn care in the U.K. is split into three tiers: burns facilities, burns units, and burns centres. Burns facilities are part of local plastic surgery services and can treat smaller burns. Burns units are regional and can treat people who require a hospital admission. Burns centres have more intensive and advanced treatment facilities and will cover a larger geographical area.

Compared to other hospitals, the specialist burns facility Frazer went to was “better equipped”, and Tom described there being specialist support at the burns unit he was at, like physiotherapy and psychotherapy.

Many people found that the specialist burns services were quite a distance from their home, which could be challenging both practically and mentally.

Being sent to specialist burns services

Gary and Helen Y each explained how, after arriving at their local hospitals by ambulance, they were immediately transferred to a specialist burns service at another hospital. When Helen Y arrived, the staff at her local hospital phoned two specialist burns hospitals to see if they had a bed available.

Helen Y was taken to a local hospital after she burnt herself during an epileptic seizure.

On the recommendation of his sister-in-law, Chris X gave his daughter Calpol (paracetamol) and drove her to a children’s burn unit. He was grateful for the advice to give pain relief as “that would have been really bad if she was still screaming in the back of the car seat and I had to drive 40 minutes and trying to drive sensibly”.

Sabrina and Jasmine had both been on holiday when the burn injury happened; this meant treatment at one hospital near where they were staying and then their treatment was transferred to a hospital closer to home.

Some people we spoke to told us that, after receiving initial treatment at a local hospital, they had to attend follow-up appointments at specialist burns services. Abi and Holly both recalled how their child’s burns were cleaned and dressed at a hospital near to them, then the next day they travelled to a hospital further way for more specialised burns treatment.

The local hospital would only clean and dress Abi’s son’s burn. They told her she needed to visit a hospital with specialist burns service for further treatment.

For some, like Lindsay, needing to be seen at a specialist burns service made them worry about the severity of the burn.

When Lindsay was told that her daughter, Niamh, needed treatment at a children’s burns unit, it made her realise the severity of the burn.

Stays and visits to specialist burns facilities

Some people we talked to had been inpatients, meaning they had stayed in hospital for specialist burns care for a few days or weeks. Often, they continued attending appointments there after being discharged. Others had attended specialist burns services for appointments only, as outpatients.

Lindsay felt quite nervous about the first journey with her daughter, Niamh, to the specialist burns services.

Claire, who was burnt as a child, stayed in hospital for 10 weeks. Sabrina was in two different hospitals with specialist burn care for a total of four weeks. After a stay in hospital, Jessica’s daughter had to return daily for over a week for intravenous antibiotics because of an infection. For Chris X, whose child was burnt, there was only one visit to a specialist burns service for roughly 2–3 hours.

Frazer had started a new job shortly before he was burnt. He found having to take time off work for appointments and being unable to drive to work to be frustrating.

When someone needs specialised burn care, they may have to travel long distances to a hospital that provides it. Abi had to travel 40 minutes each way, every day for six days, to take her son to appointments. She couldn’t commit to anything or plan ahead and, with the cost of petrol, she found it “tight” financially. She recalled that it was “just exhausting for all of us, emotionally and physically”.

When Claire was burnt as a child, she remembers her mum having to travel back and forth to the specialist burns unit every day for 10 weeks. Claire says this was a “nightmare” for her mum because the journey was two hours each way.

For parents, having to juggle caregiving responsibilities can cause additional distress. Sometimes a child will need to stay at the hospital and this can be difficult if the hospital is a long distance from home. It can also be difficult to arrange additional childcare if there are other children at home, as Claire’s mum had found with Claire’s sibling.

Jessica was worried about how her twin daughters would cope being separated when one of them was burnt and needed to stay in hospital.

After Jeff was burnt during an accident at work, he was an inpatient in a hospital with specialist burns services for a week. His wife couldn’t visit him because the hospital was too far away from their home and she had to look after their daughter.

Relocating to be nearer to specialist burns services

In cases where a child had been burnt and a parent needed to stay with them whilst they were receiving treatment, some families moved closer to the hospital. This could mean spending time away from their homes and families whilst they stayed with their injured child in hospital.

When Saffron was burnt as a child, her family temporarily relocated to be closer to the hospital as her Mum was pregnant.

When Sinead’s daughter, Elizabeth, sustained burns to 60% of her body in a fire, they had to move to the UK to access specialist help to treat severe burn injuries. For Sinead’s parents, this meant being apart from their other children.

Sinead and her family had to travel from the Middle East to the U.K. to receive specialist burns treatment for Elizabeth.

Sinead found it difficult to explain to her other children why she and her daughter Elizabeth needed to stay at a hospital in another country.

You can read more here about the impact of a burn on relationships with family and friends.

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