Rising number of obese patients leads to increase in back injuries for nurses

Some 5,000 nurses are currently being treated for back pain, and the rising number of obese patients on wards is continuing to put the health and safety of nurses at risk, back experts have warned.

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has said that despite improvements in equipment and training, a surge in patient weight, and the number of patients each nurse has to care for means the situation is likely to get worse.

BCA member Dr Matthew Bennett said: “We probably see one or two nurses a week who are new clients, but there are dozens on each practice list.

“There are thousands of nurses with work-related back pain and I think this could increase in the future,” he warned.

Many nurses were still reluctant to report their injuries for fear of it affecting their employment status, meaning that official statistics were unlikely to be showing the complete picture.

“The weight of patients is a contributory factor to back pain. It’s not just a weight issue – it’s a fitness issue with people unable to turn themselves over easily,” said Bennett.

The BCA’s warnings have been backed by both the Amicus union and the Royal College of Nursing, which said more still needed to be done by the NHS to prevent back injuries among nurses.

The Department of Health has reiterated its guidance that patients should only be handled or lifted manually if it has been assessed that to do so will not cause a risk of injury to the nurse.

Nurses, it added, should ensure they have appropriate equipment to hand and use it, that they are properly trained, and that training is regularly updated.

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