February 15, 2023 | Terry Smith

How Much Do Patient-Handling Related Injuries Cost The NHS?

In this short blog, we’re going to summarise some key facts and data about staff injury in the NHS and look at how much it costs the NHS each year. 

In particular, we’ll be looking at injuries caused by the moving and handling of patients, which are typically musculoskeletal injuries.  

What is a musculoskeletal injury?

Any injury that affects the bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, or tendons, resulting in pain, is considered a musculoskeletal (MSK) injury.  Common MSK disorders can include back and neck pain, stiffness, strains, and diseases of the joints, all of which negatively affect the quality of life and independence.

MSK disorders are one of the most common reasons for sickness absence in Health and Social Care.  In the NHS, moving and handling injuries account for 40% of work-related sickness absences1.

Research also shows that moving and lifting patients is the main cause of back injury, and back injury affects up to 38% of nurses. Nurses have 30% more sick days each year due to back pain than the general population (Nawar, 2000)2.


How much do musculoskeletal injuries cost the NHS?

The cost to the NHS of patient handling-related sickness, at a time when NHS employers are looking to make major savings, is in excess of £400 million each year1.

Furthermore, compensation claims for manual handling accidents to staff continue to rise, with the largest payment to a staff member in the NHS so far being £800,0001.


Where do musculoskeletal injuries occur most often in hospitals?

Patient handling occurs all over hospitals, so it’s difficult to pinpoint areas that have the highest amount of injuries.  That said, departments that have patient transfers frequently taking place will naturally have a higher risk of injury to staff. 

Some of these areas include:

  • Emergency department and ambulance handover units
  • Operating theatres
  • Radiology and imaging rooms

Related article: What Is The Best Way to Laterally Transfer a Patient In Radiology?


How can musculoskeletal injuries be prevented in hospitals?

Some key things that can reduce the risk of staff injury in hospitals include:

  • Carrying out the appropriate risk assessments, and keeping them up-to-date
  • Using approved and safe manual handling techniques
  • Utilising appropriate patient-handling equipment, such as patient transfer aids and lifting devices
  • Ensuring all nurses are given appropriate training and support
  • Spreading the workload between a greater number of staff

Related article: 5 Best Patient Handling Risk Assessment Tools in 2023




[1] The Guide To The Handling Of People, 6th Edition

[2] https://lksnorth.nhs.uk/media/2185/musculoskeletal-problems.pdf



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