The 47-year-old from Staines was left with chronic pain syndrome in her neck, shoulder and wrist after the accidents at Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Trust’s central sterilizing department.

Her job involved cleaning and sterilizing medical equipment for use in surgery. It was common for trays holding instruments to weigh up to 20 kilos.

During the first accident in March 2009 the Unite the Union member was pushing a trolley laden with three heavy trays out of the sterilizing machine when she felt something go in her neck.

She suffered a strain to her neck and left arm and couldn’t move her neck for more than a week.

Then in April 2010 she experienced wrist pain as she loaded trays of instruments into a dishwasher. The repetitive nature of the job meant she was lifting a number of heavy trays by herself over a long period of time and she suffered ligament damage.

The new injury aggravated her previous neck and shoulder problems and she needed intensive physiotherapy. After a month she tried to return to work but she was unable to cope with the job and was made redundant on medical grounds in June 2010.

She still suffers from constant pain and has been told by medical professionals she can no longer work in a full time role. She has taken a part time job in a coffee shop which she says causes her pain.

Thompsons Solicitors made a Personal Injury Claim

Following the second accident she contacted her trade union Unite. Unite Legal Services instructed Thompsons Solicitors to act on the member’s behalf.

Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Trust settled the claim for £18,000.

The member said: “I enjoyed my work with the sterilizing department but it was a manual job which required a lot of heavy lifting during a long shift. After my first accident I tried to carry on as normal but after the second injury it was clear that I could no longer do the job.

“Over the last few years my life has completely changed as a result of my injuries. I used to work long hours and enjoy exercising. Now I can barely work a part time shift and can’t go to the gym. I’m in constant pain which is extremely draining.”

She added: “I believe my case highlights the importance of Unite Legal Services. I was feeling so confused at the time I got in touch because I was in so much pain. I was grateful that I had both the union and Thompsons’ representatives who were dynamic, kind and very supportive.”

John Rowse, regional secretary at Unite the Union said: “When our member was injured the first time her employer should have looked at how its systems could have been changed to ensure trays and trolleys weren’t becoming overloaded. But nothing was done about the problem and a hard working member of staff suffered a further injury which subsequently meant she had to give up the job.

“This is a success for Unite Legal Services and all our members should take some comfort from knowing that our legal services are at hand to act for members and their families.”

Trevor Smith from Thompsons Solicitors added: “Employers have a responsibility to make sure manual handling tasks of this nature are assessed and carried out in the safest possible manner. It was unreasonable to expect members of staff to lift these heavy trays repetitively on their own. A safer system of work would have avoided both of these accidents.”