Needlestick injuries: NHS trusts fail to comply with rules

Research shows progress in the NHS towards use of safer sharp devices was still nowhere near what is needed
Research shows progress in the NHS towards use of safer sharp devices was still nowhere near what is needed

NHS trusts are still not complying with “safer sharps” rules, research has argued, which is potentially putting NHS employees at unnecessary risk of needlestick injuries and blood-borne infections such as hepatitis and HIV.

The study from research organisation MindMetre has suggested that many NHS trusts are flouting the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Health and Safety (Sharps Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013, which explicitly recommend that trusts should adopt sharps that incorporate safety mechanisms “where it is reasonably practicable to do so”.

The study examined purchasing volumes of safer sharps across the UK NHS acute sector, with data collected through Freedom of Information requests, between January to May 2015 and August to September 2015.

The results showed that, while progress had been made, the proportion of safer sharps devices was still nowhere near what would reasonably be expected in order to be fully compliant, MindMetre argued.

Greatest compliance levels with sharps Regulations was shown in the purchase of cannulation devices, with 79% of devices purchased in the first six months of 2015 incorporating a safety mechanism, it argued.

Blood collection was the next most compliant category, with 68% of devices purchased incorporating a safety mechanism in the same time period.

Compliance was lowest in the injection category. Here, only 44% of devices purchased in the period incorporated a safety device, despite the fact that the most common device to be involved in needlestick injuries is the syringe and needle, argued MindMetre.

Paul Lindsell, MindMetre’s managing director, said of the findings: “These levels of compliance are clearly unacceptable. The original EU Directive, enacted through the HSE Regulation, explicitly expects healthcare and care institutions to use safety devices in the vast majority of cases, and here we have clear evidence that this is not yet happening.

“Sharps injuries and resulting infections can not only cause immense personal distress, but can also ruin careers. That applies to everyone in the healthcare setting, from ancillary workers, through care professionals, to top clinicians. Failure to comply is quite simply an abnegation of the basic duty to look after staff safety at all levels,” he added.

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