Needlestick Injuries

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2008 Health Care Service Group Conference
14 December 2007

Conference notes the continued threat to health & well being of health care staff caused by needlestick injuries. Some estimates put the total number of exposures in the UK to blood borne viruses (HIV, Hep C & Hep B) in healthcare settings caused by sharps injuries as high as 100,000. It also notes with alarm that uptake of safer needles among trusts remains as low as 2%.

However Conference notes the lack of reliable statistics on needlestick injuries. Although the latest Eye of the Needle Report produced by the Health Protection Agency, National Public Health Services for Wales and Health Protection Scotland provided statistics on reported incidents, these figures took no account of underreporting and therefore seriously underestimate the extent of the problem.

Conference welcomes the recognition by NHS Employers in its “Healthy workplaces handbook” that the additional cost of purchasing safer needles mechanisms are more than offset by the financial benefits of reducing needlestick injuries.

UNISON notes that the Department’s Code of Practice for the prevention and control of health care associated infections recommends the following regarding the safe handling & disposal of needlesticks:

·The safe handling and disposal of needlesticks

·Provision of medical devices incorporating sharps protection mechanisms

·The wearing of gloves and other protective clothing

·Risk management and training in management of needlestick injuries

However the last Healthcare Commission report on compliance with the Code of Practice contains little information on compliance with these aspects of the code.

In 2001 NHS Scotland produced “Needlestick injuries: sharpen your awareness”.

This report recognised that needlestick injuries are under reported and recommended NHSScotland employers are asked to ensure they report annually the needlestick injury data as part of the local minimum dataset information. It also showed that safer needlestick devices would save the Scottish NHS £47,209 (based on year 2000 costs), a saving of 60% compared to using non-safety devices. It also recommended needlestick injury policies must specifically cover:

·Education and training

·Safe working practices

·Safe disposal of devices

·Procedure in the event of needlestick injury

·Monitoring and evaluation

·Procedures for reporting needlestick injuries

Conference also notes with disappointment that the European Commission has to date failed to comply with the European Parliament’s resolution calling for European legislation regarding provision of safer needles.

This Conference therefore calls on the Health Group Executive, working in partnership with its trade union partners, and other stakeholders such as the Safer Needles Network, to:

1)Ensure the recommendations of the Hygiene Code pertaining to needlestick injuries be applied to all four countries of the United Kingdom;

2)Pressurize the Healthcare Commission into providing accurate data on NHS Trusts compliance with the relevant provisions of the Department of Health’s Hygiene Code, and to lobby the relevant bodies to ensure similar data is provided from the remaining countries of the United Kingdom;

3)Continue to lobby for vigorous European Legislation regarding the widespread provision of safer needles;

4)Remind branches to ensure that employers throughout the four countries of the United Kingdom have established vigorous procedures for the reporting of needlestick injuries;

5)Lobby the relevant bodies throughout the United Kingdom to recognise the cost benefits of using safer needles, and to examine ways in which the bulk purchase of such devices can further reduce their costs.