Committee of Public Accounts


Press Notice No. 42 of Session 2002-03, dated 15 October 2003


FORTY-SECOND REPORT: A SAFER PLACE TO WORK: IMPROVING THE MANAGEMENT OF HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS TO STAFF IN NHS TRUSTS (HC 704)

Mr Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said today that accidents to NHS staff result in staff shortages and increased workloads which are detrimental to the quality of service to patients, and that there is a clear need for a national health and safety strategy in the NHS.

Mr Leigh was speaking as the Committee published its 42nd Report of this Session, which examined the need to evaluate the extent and costs of accidents to staff in the National Health Service, the case for a national occupational health and safety strategy, improved health and safety training, and the importance of managing the risks to contractors, agency and locum staff.

The Committee found that there is a need for a national health and safety strategy to co-ordinate existing and new health and safety initiatives. As part of this strategy, the Department should clarify the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of NHS organisations; they should set standards for training; and provide advice and guidance on occupational health services provision and the management of health and safety risks to contractors, agency and locum staff.

Although there is evidence that NHS trusts have improved their accident reporting systems, there is a lack of consistency in identifying and recording accidents. The Department should develop strengthened national reporting criteria and encourage trusts to adopt reporting systems that provide better and more complete information about the type and nature of accidents, by drawing on the experiences of those trusts that have introduced good practice reporting systems. They should also work with trusts to improve compliance with the statutory requirement to report all incidents resulting in three or more days' absence to the Health and Safety Executive under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.

The Department should review the appropriateness of the national improvement targets and through strategic health authorities, should agree targets for reducing accidents with individual trust chief executives with a clear understanding of how these will contribute to a revised national improvement target. The emphasis should be on encouraging trusts to adopt a health and safety management strategy which identifies and addresses the most serious risks, with strategic health authorities being responsible for monitoring and benchmarking trusts' performance.

Mr Leigh said today:

"It is extremely disappointing that the number of reported accidents to NHS staff increased substantially to over 135,000 in 2001 02. Performance in preventing accidents has fallen far short of the national improvement targets. Examples in this report show that staff can suffer serious injuries at work with the NHS having to make compensation payments of several hundred thousand pounds in some cases. Overall, accidents result in staff shortages and increased workloads which are detrimental to the quality of service to patients, and directly cost the health service over £170 million a year. This underscores the clear need for a national health and safety strategy in the NHS and for the Department to ensure that the number of accidents is reduced in all Trusts."


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