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Nurses urged to give views on needlestick rules

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The introduction of rules intended to protect UK nurses and other health professionals from sharps injuries moved a step closer this week.

A consultation has been launched this week on how best to introduce new European regulations designed to prevent sharps injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector.

The rules must be implemented into UK law by May 2013. They are the result of a European Union directive – 2010/32/EU – which was passed in 2010 following strong lobbying from UK health unions.

An estimated 100,000 needlestick injuries occur each year in the UK alone, according to Health and Safety Executive figures.   

The new regulations will require healthcare employers to introduce arrangements for the safe use and disposal of medical sharps, to provide information and training to employees, and to record, investigate and take action following a sharps injury.

They will also introduce a duty on healthcare workers to promptly report any sharps injury to their employer.

The Health and Safety Executive has this week launched a consultation asking for views on how best to introduce the new rules.It is seeking views on:

  • whether the proposed regulations enable healthcare businesses and workers to identify what they need to do
  • the initial assessment of the costs and benefits of the proposed changes
  • how the regulations should be supported by guidance and who is best placed to provide that guidance

The Royal College of Nursing welcomed the start of a consultation, which it highlighted were needed to protect staff from potentially life-threatening infections such HIV and Hepatitis. 

Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Nurses and healthcare assistants continue to be at risk in the workplace from sharps injuries which should be prevented.

“Nobody should go to work fearing that they could be exposed to serious infections such as Hepatitis and HIV simply because steps haven’t been taken to avoid preventable accidents.”

Mr Carter urged nurses and other healthcare professionals to respond to the consultation.

He added: “The RCN will be responding to the consultation in full and will be using a wealth of evidence to show the seriousness of this issue and the benefits to employers if they protect their staff. We would urge individuals and organisations to do likewise.

“We trust that the regulations will then be implemented as soon as possible so that nursing and other health staff cease to be at risk.”

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