HC Deb 10 November 1992 vol 213 cc729-30
4. Mr. Gareth Wardell

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will encourage health promotion departments in hospitals to distribute information on the prevention of accidents and illness at work.

Mr. Sackville

The NHS is already widely engaged in health promotion at work. Following up the commitments in the "The Health of the Nation" White Paper to develop that, we have launched the health at work initiative. A specialist workplace task force has been established to develop an action programme covering workplaces generally. That task force includes members of our wider health working group and representatives of employers, occupational health professionals, the Trades Union Congress, the Confederation of British Industry, the Health and Safety Executive, the Health Education Authority and the Departments of Employment and of Health.

Mr. Wardell

How much money has the Department made available to district health authorities and hospital trusts this year to enable them to promote campaigns to prevent accidents this year—the year of Europe—when Europe is specifically considering safety, hygiene and the protection of workers at work?

Mr. Sackville

We expect managers to spend adequately on protecting their employees. I recently launched a handbook called "Handling of Patients", produced by the National Back Pain Association and the Royal College of Nursing designed to offer good practice and to prevent nurses from the accidents to which they are so vulnerable.

Mr. Jessel

In view of the large number of nurses suffering from back pain from lifting patients, to which my hon. Friend referred, can he ask health departments to ensure the widest possible distribution of their booklet on handling patients, published by the National Back Pain Association, whose recent conference my hon. Friend was kind enough to attend?

Mr. Sackville

I attended the annual general meeting of the National Back Pain Association at my hon. Friend's request. I intend shortly to lunch with the president thereof. The matter of back pain was mentioned in our White Paper and we attach much priority to it.

Mr. McCartney

The Under-Secretary was rather complacent in his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell)—

Mr. Oppenheim

Stand up.

Mr. McCartney

I am standing up. It is not true that Conservative Members have clumped together to buy a high chair for my debut at the Dispatch Box.

The figures on occupational health are staggering: 20 per cent. of hospital accident admissions are work related, 2 million people suffer from work-related illnesses and a huge number of days are lost each year due to illness at work—a staggering 29 million. Despite that, the Government have set no targets or objectives in the White Paper. Will the Minister state clearly when he intends to introduce targets and objectives to reduce workplace injuries and matters related to occupational health?

Mr. Sackville

We attach a high priority to that. It is for that reason that the Health Education Authority has set up a workplace project covering 4 million private and public sector employees in England, including many of the health authorities' employees.