Hospitals are failing to prevent back injuries

Nurses are still suffering back injuries because hospitals are consistently
flouting RCN guidance

Safe practice guidelines on lifting and handling patients, issued six years
ago, have been largely ignored by the UK’s hospitals, according to an RCN study
monitoring its implementation.

While the risks associated with bad handling practice and the need for safer
handling have been widely understood, just 55 per cent of trusts polled have a
success rate of 51-80 per cent in implementing the 1996 recommendations.

The main reasons for this failure are negative peer pressure, cited by 64
per cent, a lack of resources and an inability to enforce policy (79 per cent).

Other reasons included a lack of training, poor knowledge or understanding
and unsuitable equipment. As a result, 68 per cent report bad practice, with 65
per cent unable to carry out adequate risk assessments.

A total of 71 per cent report the non-use of equipment and 77 per cent
continue to use condemned lifting techniques and fail to follow safe systems of

Sue Hignett, lecturer in ergonomics at Loughborough University, said the
survey reinforced the need to shift training away from simply looking at moving
and handling techniques.

"We are much more likely to see a reduction in injury rates and
improved conditions of safety for both nurses and patients, if lifting and
handling programmes are based on risk assessments," she explained.

Carol Bannister, the college’s occupational health adviser, said:
"Unless the culture within the health service changes, nurses will
continue to lift patients without making use of the appropriate equipment, and
injuries and retirement from work due to musculoskeletal injury will

The RCN is publishing new manual-handling training guidance this month,
designed to highlight the competencies staff need to achieve safer patient

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