30/04/2003

Accidents in NHS rise by a quarter

The number of reported accidents in acute, mental health and ambulance NHS trusts has increased by a quarter, according to the findings of a new report.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found that the NHS recorded 135,172 accidents last year – up 24% on 2000-01 figure. The report also concluded that four-in-five health trusts failed to meet the health department's target for reductions of 20%.

The NAO also found that despite the NHS being the UK's biggest employer with over one million workers, one fifth of trusts identified staff shortages and increased workloads as leading to poor compliance with good practice and as a result an increase in accidents.

The NAO’s analysis suggested that the direct costs to the NHS were at least £173 million, however, the true cost was said to be "substantially more" once staff replacement costs, treatment costs, staff turnover and court compensations awards were taken into account.

Moving and handling, needlestick injuries, slips, trips and falls and exposure to substances hazardous to health remain the main causes of accidents, but work-related stress has dramatically increased with over two-thirds of trusts reporting an increase in the last three years.

NAO head, Sir John Bourn, said today: "More needs to be done to reduce the number of staff accidents in NHS trusts. Good progress has been made through the initiatives such as the Back in Work campaign but too many trusts are still not implementing good practice and there are wide variations in terms of access to counselling and other support to get staff back to work more quickly.

"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."

The NAO recommended that trusts undertake a far-reaching review of health and safety strategies.

(GMcG)

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