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Journal Article


Heyward-Chaplin J, Shepherd L, Arya R, O'Boyle CP. Scars Burn. Heal. 2018; 4: e2059513118764100.


Burns and Plastic Surgery Department, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, City Hospital Campus, Nottingham, UK.


(Copyright © 2018, SAGE Publishing)








BACKGROUND: Rates of self-harm injuries are considered to be increasing. The attitudes of healthcare staff towards patients who self-harm may be negative and a small amount of research specifically investigating burns and plastic surgery healthcare professionals has recently been conducted exploring this issue. This study aimed to determine attitudes towards and adherence to national guidance by healthcare professionals in a UK burns and plastic surgery department with respect to patients who self-harm.

METHOD: An audit questionnaire, completed in a designated Burns Unit and plastic surgery department, within a UK hospital with a major trauma centre.

RESULTS: Data were obtained from 59 healthcare professionals. The majority of responders held positive attitudes towards those who had self-harmed. However, a significant minority held negative attitudes, stating that they found it difficult to be compassionate (10%; n = 6) and believing that patients usually self-harm to get attention (9%; n = 5). One-fifth (n = 12) agreed that, on a departmental level, conservative management (as opposed to surgery) was offered more frequently for self-harm injuries compared with accidental injuries, contrary to national guidance. Awareness of national guidance in relation to self-harm injuries was markedly lacking, in only 12% (n = 7/59) and the frequency of completing relevant training was low (34%, n = 20/59).

CONCLUSION: Education among healthcare professionals is important, to ensure adherence to best practice. The findings of this study strongly suggest that many healthcare professionals do not know the current best practice. As a result, these highly vulnerable patients may be receiving sub-optimal care, with consequentially poor outcomes.

Language: en


Self-harm; burns; decision-making; mental health; skin graft; surgery


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