Court rules council was wrong to impose total ban on manual lifting

A High Court ruling last week on manual lifting by care workers
could have a significant impact on the care of older people and
disabled people.

Mr Justice Munby ruled that East Sussex Council had been wrong to
introduce a blanket ban on care staff manually lifting any older or
disabled people.

His decision follows the case of two severely disabled women who
asked the local authority for care workers to manually lift them
but were refused.

Justice Munby recommended that councils follow the Health and
Safety Executive guidance on lifting and not rely too much on the
Royal College of Nursing guidance, which says lifting should only
happen in “exceptional or life threatening situations”.

Disability Rights Commission chairperson Bert Massie said the
ruling was a “clear victory” for disabled people. He added: “We
urge all local authorities to stop such practices and use Health
and Safety guidance that put disabled people’s needs back at the
heart of the care system.”

The DRC stressed it was important care workers did not put
themselves at risk of injury, but that this need must be balanced
against disabled people’s independence and quality of life.

“It is crucial that care workers are able to provide the
appropriate care people with disabilities need and this includes
lifting,” a spokesperson said.

Unison national officer for home care Fiona Westwood warned against
employers forcing care workers to move or lift a person in
circumstances that could place them and the service user in danger
or at risk of harm. “The challenge is balancing out the rights of
the service user against those of the care worker,” she said.

Westwood added that the situation could only be solved “through
dialogue at local level” about the needs of service users and staff
and not by legislation.

RCN occupational health adviser Carol Bannister said the RCN
guidance did not support “no lifting” policies. She said: “It is
important that disabled people are cared for appropriately and are
not in pain or discomfort from being lifted.”

Bannister agreed the care people received should be negotiated on
an individual level and said a risk assessment should be undertaken
to ensure health care staff were not harmed by the manual lifting
of patients.

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