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  • Patient Safety Spotlight Interview with Sharon Rindsland, Moving and Handling Senior Coordinator, East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust

    • UK
    • Interviews and reflections
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    • Everyone


    This is part of our series of Patient Safety Spotlight interviews, where we talk to people working for patient safety about their role and what motivates them. Sharon talks to us about why manual handling needs to be more than tick-box training, and describes its significance for patient safety.

    About the Author

    Sharon has over 20 years’ experience in manual handling and has worked at three acute trusts across Kent. In her current role as Moving and Handling Senior Co-ordinator at East Kent Hospital University Foundation Trust, she advises on how to implement the Moving and Handling Policy and on strategies to meet specific Trust and departmental needs. She is on the Board of the National Back Exchange as Conference Director, and is chair of the Kent group. Among many qualifications, she holds an MSc in Ergonomics and Human Factors from Derby University and a certificate of education from Canterbury College.

    Questions & Answers

    Hello Sharon. Please can you tell us who you are and what you do?

    My name is Sharon Rindsland and I have worked for the NHS for 25 years. My background is as a mammographic radiographer, but I currently oversee manual handling for East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, which employs around 10,500 staff. My role involves delivering training, carrying out risk assessments and working on incident investigations. 

    How did you first become interested in patient safety?

    When I started working in manual handling fifteen years ago, I realised that many healthcare organisations don’t take manual handling seriously. For some, it has become about ‘getting the training done’. Many trusts focus on just ensuring staff don’t develop musculoskeletal (MSK) issues; they don’t make the link between poor manual handling technique and patient deconditioning and dependency, or recognise how it can contribute to accidents. There is a lack of understanding that manual handling is absolutely central to patient safety.

    In my current role, I’m trying to bring manual handling to the front of the patient safety agenda. Most staff on the frontline will do their best to ensure the patient is being moved safely, but they don’t always have the knowledge and training to use equipment correctly. The majority of injuries we see in hospitals are linked to manual handling, and the risks around it have a huge impact on patient safety.

    Trusts need to take an organisation-wide approach where the leadership sees safe manual handling as a priority. At the moment I’m doing some work around tissue viability problems; how can manual handling support us to prevent pressure ulcers and shearing injuries?

    Which part of your role do you find the most fulfilling?

    I find incident investigations very fulfilling and interesting—it’s amazing to see factors that contributed to the incident ‘pop-out’, such as the room layout or lack of staff training. I like helping people to change the way they think so that their focus is on how to work more safely.

    What patient safety challenges does your organisation face at the moment?

    Across the NHS, we are facing major capacity issues; we just don’t have enough staff or space for all the patients that need treatment. We are very dependent on agency staff, many of whom are excellent, but it does cause problems for patient safety. Each of these nurses has had training on different pieces of equipment, and this means they might not use the equipment in a particular organisation correctly, if at all.

    Another issue is education around patient safety—so often the link with manual handling isn’t made, and the focus is all on preventing MSK issues for staff. We need to refocus and understand that all manual handling relates back to the patient. One of my mottoes is, “If you’re not safe, your patient won’t be safe.”

    What do you think the next few years hold for patient safety?

    I’m excited about what’s next in terms of moving manual handling into the spotlight. I’m fortunate that my Trust has recognised the need to change its approach; they have invested in me and my role by funding my masters degree and linking me into patient safety and patient care meetings. That proximity makes a big difference to tackling some of the issues and assures me that they want to see progress. Other trusts have seen the work we are doing and want to learn from us, which is really exciting.

    But we still need to see manual handling being taken seriously by NHS England; it is currently not represented in the organisation at all. Manual handling is one of the cogs in the patient safety process, and at the moment it’s missing at a national level. I have a few years’ working life left and I am determined to see manual handling and patient safety move forward during that time!

    If you could change one thing in the healthcare system right now to improve patient safety, what would it be?

    It would be to improve education at all levels, not just for frontline staff. If a trust’s management doesn't understand the issues and how to resolve them, they can’t support those on the frontline. I would also want to see an increase in staff sharing their experiences, both positive and negative, and being unafraid to raise issues they see.

    Are there things that you do outside of your role which have made you think differently about patient safety?

    Everything I do makes me think about patient safety! I’m very aware of my surroundings now. Walking down the street the other day, I saw a piece of cardboard wedged in the gap between paving stores. I saw the hazard and had to pick it up as I could see an elderly lady further down the road.

    Personal experience of the healthcare system also makes me think differently about patient safety; I have seen deterioration in loved ones and it makes me realise the benefit to patients of taking even one different approach in manual handling.

    Tell us one thing about yourself that might surprise us!

    I started to learn karate when I was nine, and when I was in my late thirties I fought for England! When I went to work in a hospital as a healthcare assistant, I was asked to go on my first manual handling course and found that I had learned a lot from the sport about core strength, muscle tone and the need to ‘do it properly’. I also have a forklift and tractor licence as I worked in farming before joining the NHS.

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