Workplace accidents in NHS on the rise

The number of reported workplace accidents in the NHS is increasing and the
gap between the best and worst performing trusts is widening, the National
Audit Office (NAO) has warned.

The Government watchdog said moving and handling, needlestick injuries,
trips and falls and exposure to hazardous substances remained the main causes
of accidents.

But work-related stress had also emerged as a serious issue, with more than
two-thirds of trusts reporting an increase in the past three years.

The number of reported accidents in acute, mental health and ambulance NHS
trusts had increased by 24 per cent, with about 135,172 accidents reported in
2001-02. Only a fifth of trusts had met the Department of Health target of a 20
per cent reduction in accidents by 2001-02.

But the NAO added that better awareness of the need for reporting and more
robust incident recording systems had also contributed to this increase, with
the number of accidents falling in some trusts because of improved training.

More than a fifth of trusts said staff shortages and increased workloads
were resulting in an increase in accidents, while under-reporting remained a
significant problem.

The direct cost of workplace accidents to the NHS was at least £173m,
estimated the NAO.

"However, the true cost is substantially more once staff replacement
costs, treatment costs and court compensations awards are taken into
account," it added.

Among its recommendations was to make OH services more proactive and to
ensure counselling, managing work-related stress, rehabilitation and other
support to staff is covered.

NAO head Sir John Bourn said: "At a time when it is crucial to recruit
and retain staff, the NHS must show that the health and safety of its staff is
a top priority."

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