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Health News

Tide of bizarre injuries keeps hospitals busy

There is a story told by NHS nurses about a man who turned up at accident and emergency walking in a strange manner and telling a confused tale.

It transpired that he suffered from constipation, and had been advised to take a boiled egg. Misunderstanding the advice, he took the egg as close as was possible to the problem afflicting him.

You see life working in A & E. An idea of the scale and variety of accidents that that need NHS treatment can be deduced from a dry-looking document posted on the web, with the not so gripping title of "Hospital Episode Statistics". It consists of almost nothing but columns of figures.

But the stories that underlie these dry statistics are a testament to the cruelty of fate and the carelessness with which some people end up in hospital.

It is a detailed compendium of the dozens of types of accident, with statistics that indicate how common they are, and details like the ages of their victims.

The commonest is the simple act of falling over or off some stationary object. For instance, in the year 2007-8, which is covered by the most recent figures, no fewer than 1,243 people needed hospital treatment after falling out of a tree. About a thousand of the casualties were boys under the age of 15. But there were also a dozen patients in this category aged over 75, and 40 others old enough to qualify for a bus pass. You are never too old to fall out of a tree.

Fall out of bed and you may land in hospital. Most victims are elderly, but more than a thousand people between 15 and 60 took such a tumble in the night that they needed treatment.

Another 4,283 patients needed a hospital bed after they had been ice-skating, skiing, roller-skating or skateboarding. A dozen were aged over 75. Out of 1,037,263 people admitted to hospital after an accident during the year, more than 400,000 had suffered a fall.

Further down the table are the more unusual causes of injury. You might think, for example, that being stung by a scorpion is not a hazard that need worry the British at home. Yet six people managed to get so badly stung that they were rushed to hospital and kept there for an average of three days.

Rats have a nasty bite and gave 21 people overnight stays in hospitals. There are also those treated after being bitten by spiders, snakes, lizards and other critters, including a man of 60 who spent three days in hospital after an encounter with a crocodile.

Other casualties included 44 people struck by lightning, 18 hurt by "cataclysmic storms", 10 caught in avalanches, five earthquake victims, and 15 flown back to the NHS after volcanoes erupted.

As to the gentleman and his boiled egg, his case would have appeared beneath subheading W44 – "foreign body entering through eye or other natural orifice". During 2007-8, 5,048 children and 5,334 adults suffered this fate.

Calamitous cases

28,602 Falling down stairs

592 Falling off playground equipment

404 Accidents with a motor mower