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Practice dilemma: Nurse injured at work

One of your nurses falls over at work and injures her knee. She's not seriously hurt but takes time off and before she returns to work says she's still struggling to walk. She suggests that one of the practice GPs should assess whether she's fit for work. Should you provide this? If not, what action should you take?

The nurse should be referred to see an occupational health advisor (OHA) rather than being examined by one of the GPs at the Practice.  This avoids the potential conflict of interest which arises in relation to a GP discharging their professional duties against the fact that they are the nurse's employer and that the accident occurred at work.   It would be more appropriate to refer the nurse to an OHA to provide an independent and expert opinion on the nurse's ability to return to work.

The practice should provide the OHA with the nurse's job description and any questions it would like to raise.  For example; what is the nurse's current health, what is the extent of the injury, what treatment they are receiving and whether any reasonable adjustments should be made.  Reasonable adjustments may include a temporary change to working hours or duties while the nurse recovers from the injury.

Before the nurse returns to work it would be advisable to hold a return to work meeting to discuss the OHA's report and how any proposed reasonable adjustments may be implemented.

The surgery should also carry out a risk assessment following the accident.  This is necessary from a health and safety perspective and should prevent a repeat of a similar accident.  Depending on the cause of the accident, it may be necessary to contact your insurer to notify them of the incident.  This ensures that your legal expense cover remains valid should a personal injury claim be made.

Victoria Patterson is an employment solicitor at specialist primary healthcare law firm Veale Wasbrough Vizards.