The European Federation of Public Service Unions and the European Hospital and Healthcare Employers Association yesterday announced an EU-wide agreement on measures to make needles safer, which are expected to become legislation by the end of the year.
Karen Jennings, UNISON’s head of health, who led negotiations on behalf of the union federation, said: ‘Subjecting thousands of NHS workers every year to the terror of dirty needles is unnecessary and inhumane, when safer needles are available and cost very little more.
‘Instead of losing time while the legislation goes through Europe, the Department of Health should take the initiative and start using safer needles and adopting the new prevention guidelines across the UK now.
‘The cost of providing safer needles is minimal – especially when you add together the cost of treating someone with a needlestick injury – tests, post exposure treatment, time off and compensation,’ she said.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter also welcomed the agreement. ‘With needlestick injuries affecting nearly half of all nurses in the UK, we are delighted that an agreement between EU employers and trade unions has now been reached to provide nurses with better protection,’ he said.
‘It is simple – needle policies, appropriate training and investment in safer alternatives to traditional needles can stop these accidents happening in the first place,’ he said.