Ski injuries cost NHS millions

Sunday 20 April 1997 00:02

Nearly 6,000 British skiers who fall, trip and bump their way down European ski slopes straight into hospital, are costing the NHS millions of pounds.

Once home they swap their ski sticks for NHS crutches and need treatment for bones that have been broken, twisted, or snapped, according to a new report which says that holiday insurance should be extended to pay for treatment at home.

New research into the annual toll of British skiing casualties, known in the trade as the "fallen eagles", says that 5,600 injuries are serious enough to need medical treatment, and as many as 2,000 may require operations when they get home. Travel industry estimates suggesting that up to 14,000 more British skiers incur minor injuries, bringing the casualty toll to 21,000.

The research by Dr Tim Harlow, a skiing GP from Devon with an accident- free record, which is reported in the medical journal, Injury, says travel operators allow for an injury rate of 3 per cent on skiing holidays.

Dr Harlow's research, the first of its kind, was based on an 11-week winter period at a large Alpine resort. Most injuries were due to falls, followed by attempted jumps and collisions.

"A lot of GP surgeries at the present time will have someone who is being patched together after a skiing injury," said Dr Harlow. "I think it would be reasonable and straightforward to extend insurance, for perhapsaround pounds 5, to cover the costs. That way they could be seen privately, would not join NHS queues ... and they would get back to work more quickly."

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