The HPA’s report – Eye of the Needle – shows that during 2006 and 2007 doctors and dentists reported 46% of work-related exposures to bloodborne viruses via needlestick and sharps injuries, compared to 44% among nurses.
Overall there were 914 incidents of healthcare workers being put at risk over the two year period. Three healthcare workers were reported as having acquired hepatitis C infection as a result of their injury.
The report supports the findings of an RCN survey on needlestick injuries in 2008, published a fortnight ago, which found limited access and support from employers when staff had been exposed.
The HPA found 78% of those at risk of contracting hepatitis C from a needlestick of sharps injury may not have been followed up adequately. Only 22% of staff exposed had received the correct type of tests at the right time as guidelines recommended, the agency report said.
‘Testing and follow up checks are vital as infections can remain undetected for many years,’ said Professor Mike Catchpole, director of the HPA’s centre for infections.