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Unison demands action over nurse needle injuries


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.”



Readers' comments (10)

  • We are only nurses, it doesn't matter that we are harmed, all part of the job apparently. Can you imagine the uproar if one patient (let alone 85,000) sustained a needle stick injury.

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  • I would have thought that UNISON would have had other things to do. Like protect their members pensions? After all their members lost a day's pay before Christmas over this. Or are they not bothered any more? Leave the Proffesional stuff to the BMA or RCN. After all you are only a public service union.

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  • Anonymous | 6-Jun-2012 12:00 pm

    Of course, you must be kidding. No one could be that ignorant, could they?

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  • Nurses' health and needlestick injuries are very serious issues. Severe damage can be cause by the latter.

    Before we had sharpsafe containers for safer disposal we had 500ml or 1000ml yoghurt-like cartons to which we had to fit the lid when they were full. I once stabbed myself with a needle which I had used to give a s.c. heparin to a patient with AIDS. It was at 5 am when I was tired and clearing up. when I tried to fit the lid which required a little force the disposable syringe/needle unit which was not separable spun round and stuck me in the thumb.I took all the precautions according to hospital protocol and fortunately had no sequelae but it caused me considerable concern for several months until I was cleared of all risk. Fortunately it had not been a needle which had been used for an iv or im injection which could have been an even greater risk.

    Although in this case the needle was not separable we were advised to separate other needles from syringes after use which I did not find very safe.Eventually sharpsafe containers were introduced.

    Then I went to work in an old peoples' home where they still used the yoghurt style cartons and a shocking practice of using disposable insulin syringes and needles more than once for the same patient to save costs.

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  • Most needle stick injuries are caused by the nurse not folowing safe handling protocols. We need to take some personal responsibility for this. No recapping, use proper sharps containers, don't move around the ward with an uncapped needle etc. Stop blaming others.


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  • alot of our doctors overfill the sharps bins in the clinic, and have been told to stop this, but do not listen, therefor staff get injured from sharps.

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  • We were told for years not to recap. makes sense. Now they have brought in non touch technique we are being told to recap to protect 'the business end' from contamination. as ANTT is cheaper and does not require sterile gloves seems nurses safety has less priority.

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  • tinkerbell

    spring loaded retractable needles are now available. The needle retracts into the syringe once the injection is given.

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  • Steve, I got a needle stick injury from a patient who had an uncapped syringe in his pocket so it's not always the nurses fault. They also hide them under the bedclothes or 'forget' to tell you they are in their bags which you are helping them to unpack.

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  • on a few occasions we found uncapped needles in patients' beds which had been used by doctors, some of whom totally ignored any dangers or safety rules, and expected nurses to run around after them clearing up their mess!

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