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Nurses 'need more advice over back pain'

NHS workers need to be given more advice about what to do when suffering back pain, according to a report.

The Royal College of Physicians’ national clinical audit of back pain management found nurses and other healthcare workers suffering such problems needed clearer information.

The audit of more than 5,000 cases comes at a time when two-fifths of NHS sickness absence are related to back pain and other musculoskeletal problems. Previous research by Unison found that every year 3,600 nurses have to retire because of back problems.

Researchers found that since the previous study was conducted four years ago there had been an improvement in the care given to NHS staff suffering back pain.

The report called for nurses and other workers to be reminded that returning to work as soon as possible could help stave off long-term problems.

Dr Julia Smedley, lead consultant on the audit, said: “There has been a revolution in the way we manage back pain and there is now good evidence to show that what you do in the early stages is very important - in most cases, the sooner you get moving and doing your ordinary activities, the sooner you will get back to normal.

“I would urge any NHS employee who is suffering from a back problem to seek advice from their occupational health service.”

The audit of NHS members of staff, over half of whom were nurses, also revealed that:

  • 59% had taken time off sick due to their back pain
  • 87% of the consultations encouraged patients, where appropriate, to stay at work despite residual pain
  • 95% of the consultations resulted, where appropriate, in practical advice to managers about the adjustments they could make so that their staff could remain in or return to work



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