Hospitals across Europe could soon be legally required to take action to prevent needlestick injuries to their staff after European Union unions and employers’ bodies reached a landmark agreement.
The deal between the European Public Services Unions federation and Hospeem, which represents hospitals and healthcare employers across Europe (including the NHS Confederation) is expected to be incorporated into EU health and safety legislation before the end of the year.
It could mean hospitals will have to introduce self-resheathing needles as well as put in place appropriate response and follow-up policies in case injuries occur.
The health workers’ union Unison, which was closely involved in the negotiations, has urged the Department of Health (DoH) to adopt the guidelines immediately.
Karen Jennings, Unison’s head of health, said: “Instead of losing time while the legislation goes through Europe, the DoH should take the initiative and start using safer needles and adopting the new prevention guidelines across the UK now.”
Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said a combination of needle policies, appropriate training and investment in safer alternatives could stop most needle-stick accidents from happening in the first place. “Nurses should also receive full support from their employers when they sustain an injury, to prevent the feelings of isolation and anxiety that often accompany such trauma,” he added.
NHS Employers, which was also involved in the deal, said the agreement would help protect both staff and patients across the European Union.