A paramedic has been awarded compensation after he had to manoeuvre a patient into an ambulance and was left with permanent damage to his back and shoulder. He received significant compensation after action by his union UNISON and Thompsons Solicitors.

The 53-year-old had to manually lift a patient into the back of an ambulance using a ‘carry chair’ because it wasn’t fitted with a tail lift. The awkward manoeuvrability of the carry chair caused the paramedic to strain under the weight of the patient.

The incident exacerbated an existing back injury that had also been caused by lifting a patient while on duty. The paramedic had to have physiotherapy and was unable to work for four and a half months.

“As paramedics we do get back and shoulder injuries fairly frequently due to the nature of the job but the risks of them and their severity can be minimised by management giving us the correct tools to do the job safely,” said the paramedic.

“Back and other injuries from the old style ambulances without tail lifts are a regular problem which the London Ambulance Service are aware of. A proper assessment of the risks with the old-style ambulances and the carry chair method of moving patients would have avoided my accident.”

Manually handling a patient up steps in a carry chair isn’t good for the patient or the ambulance crew

Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Health, said: “Newer models of emergency vehicles are fitted with a tail lift, which replaces the steps. Manually handling a patient up steps in a carry chair isn’t good for the patient or the ambulance crew. For the crew – who don’t have any choice about which vehicle they are assigned to – their bodies are put under unnecessary strain to get the job done.

“Our member has undergone months of suffering because he was using out-of-date equipment. And the ambulance service was deprived of a vital worker for months.”

The right equipment and rigorous training are key

Joanne Evans from Thompsons said: “Manual handling injuries are the most common type of work place injury. No one expects the job of the paramedic not to involve lifting but employers should try to protect those who have to do it. The right equipment and rigorous training are key.

“The presence of a tail lift in newer models of ambulances doesn’t mean that paramedics don’t have to lift but it does make access into the rear of an ambulance much less physically demanding.”