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Nursing Injury Claims

Solicitors in London
Nursing is often described as rewarding and underpaid, but rarely as dangerous. But figures produced by the Nursing Times under a Freedom of Information request to the NHS show that there have been 8800 significant injury cases (i.e. involving at least 3 days off work) involving nurses, assistants and midwives in the last three years. Allowing for under reporting the true figure will be over 3000 injuries every year. The 8800 figure included 2000 back injuries300 fractured limbs and 50 fractured skulls, so these can be very serious injuries and they beg the question are our nurses being properly protected at work?

Causes of injury

The causes of all these accidents have not been collated and analysed, but there are some common themes. Assaults against medical staff are far too prevalent and many hospitals now rightly employ security guards in their A & E departments. Those working in a psychiatric setting are particularly vulnerable and they rely on their employer to assess the risk each patient may pose and to put safety measures in place.

Needlestick injuries

Needlestick incidents account for perhaps 10% of total injuries. A very common cause of injury amongst nurses is injury to the back from lifting, bending and carrying heavy loads.

Injuries after moving patients

One type of injury we see a lot is from nurses having to help manoeuvre patients. Where the patient is heavy, infirm or disabled it is often necessary to move them from bed to chair and from sitting to standing. A patient is not a dead weight and can move in unpredictable ways; so nurses need to be trained in how to deal with patients in these situations and there are a range of protocols for carrying out different tasks and using different equipment.

Appropriate training and duty of care

The employer owes a duty to take steps to minimise the risk of nurses and other healthcare workers suffering injury when moving patients, and this involves assessing a patient as to their needs, and allocating the necessary resources to the task. So if an elderly patient weighs 18 stone and is recovering from a broken wrist and broken ankle they may need to mobilise in a wheelchair and will need help transferring in and out of that wheelchair. If only one nurse or carer is assigned to that task it is unlikely that the patient will be able to transfer safely, and both patient and nurse will be put at risk. A patient who is at a particular risk of falls, perhaps because of a head injury or some other condition, poses another danger to his or her carers; if the nurse has not been trained in how to deal with the common problem of falling patients then they are likely to risk injury themselves from trying to catch there patient.

A recent case

We acted for a nurse who was injured when she tried to catch a falling patient. She suffered a serious back injury which left her spine vulnerable to further injury and she had to give up her vocation of nursing. We brought a claim against her employers, a nursing agency. They denied liability, arguing that she had been properly trained and should have known that the she should not try to catch a falling patient; they denied that the accident occurred and claimed that if it did then it happen then did not cause her injury. Court proceedings were required and the parties exchanged medical and fitness evidence. Eventually the employers accepted that they had not given the proper training and that the accident caused the injury. They settled out of court for a figure that included loss of earnings and compensation for loss of career.

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