Safety concerns at Sheffield hospitals

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More than 1,500 health and safety incidents involving staff and medical students were reported at Sheffield’s hospitals last year – including attacks by patients, falls and accidents with syringes.

There were 1,558 health and safety risks reported in 2012/13 at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Northern General, Weston Park and Royal Hallamshire hospitals, as well as the Jessop maternity wing and Charles Clifford dental centre.

The most common incident involved staff being injured by needles or sharps, which happened 166 times over the 12 months.

Patients attacked workers 145 times and there were 110 incidents where people were hurt by moving objects.

Meanwhile, 74 staff members struck furniture and fittings, 73 were exposed to harmful substances and there were 69 falls, including slips and trips on wet floors.

The figures were revealed in Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ annual health and safety report, which said the overall number of incidents – and their severity – had reduced slightly last year.

Occupational safety manager Alison Redfern, the report’s author, said the number of physical assaults by patients had ‘significantly dropped’.

“The majority of such incidents occurred in neurosciences and geriatric and stroke medicine, and were recorded as insignificant or minor injury,” she said.

Poor staffing levels were raised as a health and safety issue 57 times and there were 56 instances of ‘verbal abuse’.

More than 40 workers suffered cuts from sharp objects other than surgical equipment and there were 39 reports of ‘threatening behaviour’.

Staffing issues and needle injuries were mainly an issue in obstetrics, gynaecology and neonatology.

Dr David Throssell, medical director, at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “The safety of the 15,000 members of staff who work for the trust is very important to us. During the last year a number of additional measures have been put in place to further limit the chances of our staff being at risk.

“This has resulted in the total number of health and safety incidents, as well as the severity of these incidents, reducing from the previous year. We have also seen a decrease in the number of staff being assaulted by patients.”

He added: “We are also trialling new products which are designed to reduce the risks associated with the use of needles.”

In total, 33 accidents needed to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive.

Ms Redfern said a HSE investigation is still outstanding into the state of the toilets on ward E1 of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.