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Protection from needle injuries overdue for British nurses

September 5, 2012

It seems to have taken a European Union ruling to bring new, improved workplace regulations into British hospitals to help protect nurses from injuries by needles used as part of their work.

An amazing 100,000 needle stick injuries occur each year in British hospitals and most of these are avoidable if a few simple safe use and disposal methods are used.

While most needle stick injuries are not serious, the nurses are exposed to whatever contamination might be carried in the needles and some consequences could be very serious indeed.

Any nurse who suffers an injury in a hospital for which he or she is not responsible is able to bring a compensation claim against the NHS or private health organisation for the effects of the injury.

Nursing unions have worked hard over the years lobbying for something to be done to tighten up safety procedures in hospitals involving the use and disposal of needles.

The new ruling must be incorporated into British law by May 2013 and was the end product of a directive form the EU made in 2010.

The ruling will compel employers to bring in training in the safe use and disposal of needles as well as changes to the way which they are removed from the location in which they are used. Most needle stick injuries happen by accident when used needles are lying around after being used.

The ruling will also require all health workers to report any needle injuries as soon as they have happened. It is thought that the number of real injuries reported so far is a small percentage of the total number.

Needle stick injuries, in the worse case scenario can mean infection of the injured worker with hepatitis or HIV or any other disease which can be transmitted by blood or body fluids, which are left in a used needle.

The Health and Safety Executive has called for a consultative period to collate information and ideas on how best to proceed with the changes in the regulations.

The Royal College of Nursing CEO, Richard Carter, said that the organisation welcomed the consultation and would be cooperating fully. Mr Carter said that the steps were long overdue and that nobody in the health industry should have to go to work worrying whether they could develop a serious disease by contact with a needle stick. He said that employers, including the NHS, would benefit in the long run if nurses and other health care professionals were able to work in a safer environment.