HC Deb 23 June 2003 vol 407 cc579-80W
Mrs. Calton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many(a) medical staff, (b) nursing and midwifery staff and (c) health care assistants have reported back injuries related to their work in the NHS in each of the last six years; [119687]

(2) what representations he has received on the contribution of staffing levels to the risk of staff or patient injury relating to manual handling of patients in the NHS; [119688]

(3) if he will place a copy of the NHS Manual Handling Regulations in the Library. [119689]

Mr. Hutton

The Department does not collect this information centrally. However, we do know that one third of all reported injuries that result in three or more days off work are caused by manual handling accidents and that manual handling accidents and back pain account for approximately 40 per cent. of all national health service sickness absence.

Evidence suggests that the introduction of lifting equipment for patients, following suitable risk assessment, has a greater impact on the number of manual handling accidents to both staff and patients than simply increasing staff numbers. We believe that the current strategy of providing increased levels of mechanical aids is responsible for the reduction in manual handing accidents reported by 33 per cent. of trusts in the National Audit Office's recent report "A Safer Place to Work—Improving the Management of Health and Safety Risks to Staff in NHS Trusts".

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 are not specific to the NHS. However, the Health and Safety Executive has issued non-statutory guidance, "Manual Handling in the Health Services", a copy of which will be placed in the Library.

Mrs. Calton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on compliance within the NHS with the NHS Manual Handling Regulations. [119690]

Mr. Hutton

The Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended) apply to all work activities and are the responsibility of the Department of Work and Pensions.

The National audit Office report, "A Safer Place to Work—Improving the Management of Health and Safety Risks to Staff in NHS Trusts", showed a reduction of 33 per cent. in manual handling accidents over the last three years. The Department is reviewing approaches taken by national health service trusts in evaluating compliance with the current guidance and will be considering the need for a more consistent approach to evaluation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforces the above regulations in NHS trusts and other healthcare premises and assesses compliance with the regulations as a key part of most trust inspections. I am informed that the HSE has not prosecuted any NHS trusts for breaches of the regulations, but it has served a number of individual trusts with statutory notices requiring them to improve compliance with various requirements of the regulations.

Information on the number of statutory notices served in English NSH trusts since 1998–99 is shown in the following table:

Number of notices
1998–99 6
1999–2000 10
2000–01 6
2001–02 13
2002–03 119
1 Provisional figure