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NHS safety alert over use of liquified phenol 80%

A national safety alert has been issued to halt the use of a highly toxic and corrosive nail treatment after NHS patients suffered burns.

Posted on 03 September 2021

Liquified phenol 80% must be removed from NHS hospitals and clinics providing foot treatment services by 25 February 2022 at the latest.

Incidents in which patients were harmed by the substance included:

  • A child needing emergency treatment for intestinal burns after the substance was used instead of paraldehyde as a rectal enema
  • The mistaken use of the chemical instead of oil phenol 5% in the removal of a rectal polyp
  • The substance being spilled on to a child’s leg during toenail treatment and having to be referred to a specialist burns unit for treatment

NHS bodies have been ordered to ensure they have stock of a safer alternative to liquified phenol 80%. They must ensure that it cannot be prescribed or purchased inadvertently.

Leigh Day partner and burns claims specialist Jill Paterson said:

“The safety alert over the use of liquified phenol 80% is welcome, but it is very concerning to read in the alert that 30 incidents of harm to patients were recorded over a five-year period before this action was taken.”

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