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Staff still at too high a risk from sharps injuries, warns union

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There are “startling variations” between trusts and regions in how safety sharps are bought and used, according to data collected by Union.

Current health and safety regulations require all healthcare employers to substitute unprotected sharps with ones incorporating safety mechanisms, when it is ‘reasonably practical’ to do so.

But the new figures, from the NHS Business Service Authority, suggest only a slow uptake by the health service of safer needles, syringes and lancets.

“It is clear that much more needs to be done before we can be confident that all employers are doing all they can to keep their staff safe from sharps injuries”

Christina McAnea

Only 28% of sharps devices purchased this year were safety devices, compared with 24% in 2013, according to the figures, which were provided by the authority in response to a freedom of information request by Unison.

In addition, while some community trusts reported that 83% of devices they purchased were safety devices, in other areas the figure was as low as 16%.

The Health and Safety Executive has estimated that as many as 100,000 injuries of health workers are caused by sharps each year.

Unison head of health Christina McAnea said: “Although it is welcomed that more NHS trusts are purchasing safety sharps, it is clear that much more needs to be done before we can be confident that all employers are doing all they can to keep their staff safe from sharps injuries.

ChristinaAmandakendalChristina McAnea

“Health staff often work in frantic, high stress environments and it is crucial that the equipment they use provides them with adequate protection,” she said.

“Purchasing safer needles and sharps devices would be more cost effective than committed health workers off sick injured by outmoded unsafe instruments,” she added.   

Figures revealed by Nursing Times in February suggested a third of hospital trusts in England were failing to comply with the safety regulations designed to reduce the risk of needlestick injuries.

Business analysts MindMetre found 33% of trusts did not instruct staff to use safety devices “wherever possible” in their sharps policies, despite it being an explicit requirement of health and safety regulations introduced last year on the back of a European Union directive.

Directive 2010/32/EU came into force in May 2010. It was followed last year by UK guidance from the Health and Safety Executive. 

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Readers' comments (4)

  • hi

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  • hi, what?

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  • I prefer normal needles. Safety needles are bulky and clumsy to use. Also the boxes of 100 needles are at least twice the size. Imagine that scaled up to the entire NHS supply. That's double the number of lorries needed to transport them and twice the storage space required. Surely not cost effective? And as for safer, I had my worst ever needle stick injury last week from one of these so called safety needles whereas none from normal needles in 5 years of using!

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  • Sharps injuries are, in by the the majority of cases, caused by the person. If we all follow the rules, don't recap, use a sharps container immediately afterward, don't walk around with sharps, then there should be very few injuries. It is the user, not the equipment....

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