• Seventy per cent of providers inspected were breaking one or more health and safety laws 
  • Inspections focused on violence and aggression towards staff, and manual handling
  • HSE’s inspections linked to high level of attacks in sector, including three deaths

Around two-thirds of NHS providers were found to be breaking laws aimed at protecting staff from violence and aggression, when inspected by the Health and Safety Executive, information released to HSJ reveals.

The HSE has inspected 37 NHS organisations since April 2018, looking at how they manage risks to staff from violence and aggression, and found 25 of them (67 per cent) were in breach of the law.

HSE inspectors also found 21 of 38 NHS providers (55 per cent) were breaking health and safety law concerning manual handling and musculoskeletal disorders.

The regulator has released the findings to HSJ of its NHS inspection programme — which is carried out because there are more assaults in the sector than in others — although it has declined to say which providers were found to be breaking the law in the two categories.

It comes amid concern about rising numbers of assaults on NHS and care staff. The HSE has identified that three staff members have been killed by patients or service users in the last five years.

The HSE’s findings

In 2018-19, the HSE inspected 19 NHS organisations for their management systems for both violence aggression and manual handling, while at one trust inspectors concentrated only on manual handling.

The HSE visited a further 18 NHS providers in the first half of 2019-20, and they were all inspected for both their violence and aggression and manual handling management systems.

Across the total 38 NHS providers, the HSE found 27 trusts were in breach of one or both sets of duties under health and safety law covering violence and aggression and/or manual handling, including:

  • 25 trusts which were breaking the law for their management of risks from violence and aggression; and
  • 21 trusts which were in breach of the law regarding their risk management for manual handling.

Improvement notices were served to seven trusts requiring improvements on how they handle risks from violence and aggression, and to eight trusts requiring action on their manual handling procedures.

HSJ has asked the HSE to identify the NHS organisations which were found to be in breach of the laws, but it has declined. It has, however, provided a list of those which were inspected in each of the two financial years (see box below).

HSJ reported last month that Leeds Community Healthcare Trust had disclosed in board papers that HSE has determined it had broken the law. It has said the HSE has not indicated a follow-up inspection was required, and was working on a “full action plan” to address the findings.

The HSE said the trust’s policies for violence and aggression, lone workers and safe moving and handling “do not identify high risk locations, tasks or roles”, and that procedures for responding to panic alarms were “inconsistent”.

Providers inspected in 2018-19

NHS Dumfries & Galloway

NHS Lanarkshire

Powys Teaching Health Board

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board

Cumbria Partnership FT

Mersey Care Foundation Trust

Sheffield Health and Social Care Foundation Trust

Leeds and York Partnership FT

Gateshead Health FT

Camden and Islington FT

St George’s University Hospitals FT

Cambridge and Peterborough FT

Bedfordshire Hospital Trust

Kent and Medway and Social Care Partnership Trust

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust

Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust

Kettering General Hospital Foundation Trust

Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust

Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust

Providers inspected in 2019-20

Lancashire Care FT

Countess of Chester Hospital FT

Bradford District Care FT

Sunderland Royal Hospital/South Tyneside and Sunderland Trust

Leeds Community Healthcare Trust

Central and North West London FT

North Middlesex University Hospital Trust

Hertfordshire Partnership University FT

North West Anglia FT

East and North Hertfordshire Trust

East Sussex Healthcare Trust

Leicestershire Partnership Trust

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust

Birmingham Community Healthcare FT

Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Cornwall Partnership FT

Salisbury FT