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Needlestick dangers for nurses neglected

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Almost a third of nurses receive no formal advice about the risk of blood borne diseases after being injured with a needle or a sharp already used on a patient, survey results suggest.

According to the RCN’s Needlestick injury in 2008 survey, nearly half of respondents had been stuck by a needle or sharp at some point in their career and 10% had sustained an injury in the last year.

However, 28% of nurses said they had never received advice from their employer about what to do after being injured and only 15% of respondents said they were offered prophylactic treatment when they were stuck or cut.

But the findings from the survey of 4,700 nurses also reveal a stark contrast between settings. Only 17% of hospital-based nurses said they had not received advice after an injury compared to 42% working in the community.

The survey also showed that despite the fact that the vast majority of employers had a sharps policy, 94%, only half of respondents had received training in their organisation on safe needle use.

Overall the survey reveals falling confidence among nurses in their employers’ level of support after a sharps incident. Just under 70% felt their employer offered them adequate support (see xxx) compared to 78% in 2005 – the last time the college carried out a major survey on needlesticks.

In addition, while nearly all respondents, 99%, said they considered the availability of safer needle devices – such as safety lock syringes or shielded needles – as necessary (see xxx) only half said they currently had access to any of these devices.

Kim Sunley, senior employment relations advisor at the RCN, described the prevalence of needlestick injuries as ‘shocking’.

‘Half of nurses fear being injured and the psychological impact of an injury when it does happen, even if it does not develop into something life-threatening, is underestimated,’ she added.

Ms Sunley also said she was ‘disappointed’ that there were still deficiencies with employers in the support they offered to nursing staff who had been injured. ‘We are particularly concerned about staff working in the community and outside the NHS,’ she said.

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