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Dermatitis in health and social care

Contact dermatitis is the most common form of work-related skin disease suffered by nurses and other health and social care professionals. Each year an estimated 1000 nurses develop work-related contact dermatitis.

Dermatitis is an inflammatory condition of the skin caused by contact with outside agents which can result in irritation, redness, cracking and blistering.

HSE has a specific Skin at work website - providing information on how to prevent work-related skin diseases in your workplace – where you can get further help if you need it. The microsite contains guidance on dermatitis and specific guidance on reducing the risks of work-related dermatitis in healthcare and dentistry.

Inspection projects and programmes

Summary of project

In 2008/09, HSE specialist inspectors (occupational health) undertook a project to inspect acute NHS organisations’ management arrangements for implementing the requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (as amended) (COSHH).

The aim of the project was to gather both quantitative and qualitative data about the organisations’ management and prevention of skin problems. 

The project, prompted by a series of anecdotal reports to HSE, indicated a rapid increase in the incidence of work-related contact dermatitis (WRCD) in some acute trusts in England.

Forty-four NHS organisations participated in the inspections, representing approximately one-third of acute trusts in England and Wales and boards in Scotland.

Summary of findings    

Further information on the findings of this inspection project can be found in the summary report or the full report.

As follow-up to the 2008/09 project, further visits to NHS organisations are ongoing.  They aim to further raise awareness of the need to prevent and manage skin problems through improved management.

Around 10% of these visits will be returns to organisations inspected during 2008/09. The occupational health specialists have been provided with operational guidance in the form of a Sector Information Minute (SIM) to help complete the inspections.

Further information will be published once the visits have been evaluated.

Further information

This section provides useful links to guidance, research and information on the management of dermatitis in the health and social care sector.

Updated 2016-01-10