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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 14:22 GMT
Nurse wins 800,000 for back injury

Karl Douglas Karl Douglas: No amount of money is proper compensation

A former intensive care nurse has accepted 800,000 compensation after injuring his back at work.

In what is thought to be one of the largest ever settlements for a workplace back injury, Bexley and Greenwich Health Authority agreed to pay the money to Karl Douglas in an out-of-court settlement.

I loved my job and would give anything to go back to it
Karl Douglas
Mr Douglas, then 28, injured his back lifting a 12-stone patient at Brook Hospital, in east London, in 1992 because no mechanical hoist was available.

He lifted the patient with the assistance of just one other colleague, though it was recommended at the time that four members of staff were needed.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which negotiated the settlement, says the hospital, then run by Greenwich Health Authority, did not give adequate training on lifting and the correct equipment was not available.

Tore a disk

Mr Douglas had previously suffered a back injury lifting a patient on the same ward, but the second incident tore a disk in his lower vertebrae leaving him in permanent pain.

Surgeons were unable to operate for three years because they could not find the source of the pain.

Mr Douglas, who had been working as an intensive care (ICU) nurse for eight years, left nursing but found even desk jobs impossible. He suffered intermittent urine retention, requiring regular catheterisation and found it difficult to dress himself, bath or drive.

He became dependent on his parents and state benefits for living expenses and has had to invest in changes to his home, such as a special shower and ground floor toilet.

Mr Douglas said: "I loved my job and would give anything to go back to it.

"The NHS is desperate for ICU nurses, but I must put it in the back of my mind - I'll never work as a nurse again."

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the RCN, said: "Karl was a highly valued and experienced nurse working in intensive care. Quite apart from the personal tragedy of a nurse losing his career, the NHS has lost a dedicated ICU nurse.

"We now know that manual lifting of patients is always dangerous - employers have no excuse to avoid investment in the right training and equipment."

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See also:
14 Feb 00 |  Health
80% of workers have back pain
11 Feb 99 |  Health
Genetic link to back pain
29 Jul 98 |  Health
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30 Jun 99 |  Health
Back pain torments millions

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