The government is being urged to end the “horror” caused to NHS nurses, midwives and other health workers by injuries from needles.
Unison said thousands of incidents could be avoided if safer needles were introduced in hospitals and other areas of the NHS.
The union is hosting a safety summit in London, where health representatives from across Europe will discuss the progress of an EU Directive designed to reduce the number of injuries.
Unison’s head of health, Christina McAnea, said: “An EU Directive in 2009 set May 2013 as the deadline for the introduction of safer needles across the European union.
“But why wait till then to stop the misery of needlestick injuries?
“It is about time the government stopped dragging its heels and introduced safer needles across the NHS now.
“Deaths are fortunately rare, but many thousands of workers are left terrified that they may have contracted a serious infection from dirty needles such as Hepatitis or HIV.
“In addition, the mental and actual cost of treating these injuries to the NHS is huge.
“Each of the 85,000 sharps injuries in the UK leads to time lost while workers get treatment or take time off to recover.
“It leads to expensive treatments and increased legal costs, as well as untold distress to victims and their families.”