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Back injuries among NHS staff 'cost £400m a year'

NHS staff who injure their backs in the course of their work cost taxpayers over £400m a year according to a new publication by the national charity BackCare.

This huge sum is made up of staff sickness, absences, and wasted training of those forced to leave their jobs as a result. £400m is enough to employ 16,000 nurses for a year.

Each year, over 80,000 nurses injure their backs at work and 3,600 healthcare workers are forced to retire early. Across the care sector handling injuries account for over a quarter of all reported injuries to employees.

In a bid to prevent such injuries BackCare is launched a new edition of its classic textbook The Handling of People, at the Disabled Living Foundation's Moving and Handling conference in London on 3 February.

BackCare's Acting CEO, Sean McDougall, said: "Cutbacks in NHS and local authority spending are apparently intended to reduce waste and increase efficiency, yet the biggest single cause of work-related sickness absence in the health and social care sectors is largely preventable through better training and systems of management."

Dr Andrew Auty, BackCare's Chairman of trustees, commented: 'We want to make sure that every single person working in the health and social care sectors has access to the very latest advice on how to work with patients and service users without injuring their own back.'
'Back pain ruins lives and it is costing the NHS a fortune.'
Consultant physiotherapist Jacqui Smith, editor of the guide, says health and social care providers must adopt a more strategic approach.

'Although accidents have reduced significantly in the 30 years since this guide was first introduced, the economic cost of musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain continues to rise; the human costs are often hidden and privately borne. Yet most of these conditions are preventable or manageable.

'There is good evidence that prevention-focused strategies including access to appropriate equipment, expert back care advice, and effective training are both effective and cost-effective in improving work attendance, enhancing performance and improving patient/service user care.

'This guide is therefore essential reading to all health and social care employers, budget holders and decision-makers."

Welcoming the publication, Julian Topping, Head of Workplace Health and Regulation at NHS Employers, warns that compensation claims for manual handling accidents to staff continue to rise.

'Every NHS employee who retires early because of a back injury costs the NHS at least an extra £60,000, money which could have been saved by effective training."

The textbook, often referred to as the 'Nurses' Bible', has become an indispensable training and reference manual for those responsible at any level for the safety of patients and staff, from policy to practice.

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, added: 'I commend this new edition to the nursing and caring professions at all levels, as well as to those who manage and fund healthcare provision, and am confident that it will help to further advance standards of care, and of health and safety, for the benefit of all.'

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"If people were taught to use chiropractic care as a preventative measure, just as we see in dentistry, these LBP cases would be more cost and clinically effective. Numerous international studies have shown spinal manipulation is the best form of care for non-specific LBP and neck pain" - JC Smith, US