Back Pain Nurse Awarded £420,000
Wednesday, 16 October, 2002
Angela Knott had been a nurse since she was 18
A nurse has won a "ground-breaking" case against an NHS trust, after she claimed poor staffing levels and inadequate equipment caused her crippling back injury.
The High Court decision, to award a £420,000 compensation pay-out, could now see a flood of applications from nurses suing other health trusts.
Angela Knott, 36, from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, never returned to work after waking in agony one morning in March 1998.
She suffered a disc prolapse, which has led to incontinence, diminished sexual function and she has been warned not to have children.
Mrs. Knott, who became a nurse at 18, worked at Beckton Ward at Newham General Hospital, east London, which took acute medical cases such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer and HIV.
Her counsel, Colin McCaul, said in court, that nursing levels on the ward "can only be described as appalling" and it had to share one hoist with another ward, resulting in nurses having to lift patients of up to 12 stones in weight.
He said that Mrs. Knott used to end a shift "literally aching all over" as if she had done a work-out in the gym and would resort to hot baths and the occasional painkiller.
The authority, which denied liability, argued that Mrs. Knott had exaggerated the amount of manual lifting and that she suffered from a degenerative disc disease unrelated to her work.
Mr. Justice Simon ruled that Newham Healthcare NHS Trust's arrangements for lifting were "inadequate properly to protect their staff and patients".
He found the authority's breach of duty caused, and at the very least materially contributed to, Mrs. Knott's injury.
The case returns to court later on Wednesday for Newham to formally agree the compensation figure. The trust also faces a costs bill which has been estimated at around £400,000.
After the ruling, Mrs. Knott said: "They just can't keep treating nurses like cannon fodder.
"There are hardly any nurses in the UK now because of this - the management just do not appreciate us or give us the respect we deserve.
"I'll never forget my nursing. I loved it and I'll always miss it."
She said that she was starting a new life as a counsellor and was halfway through her training.
Mrs. Knott's solicitor, Harold Immanuel, said that the decision was "ground-breaking for all nurses and patients in the NHS".
He added: "The importance of this case is that Angela did not have a specific accident.
"Because most nurses' injuries are back injuries and not caused by specific accidents, we believe there is the opportunity for justice for other nurses as well."
Carol Bannister, Occupational Health Adviser, Royal College of Nursing said: "This is a good judgement both for the nurse and for supporting good health and safety practice for all nurses.
"Nurses should have access to the right equipment for their patient's needs and training and support to use it properly."
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