RCN says HR must do more to support nurses

HR support for nurses who are injured while at work is patchy at best, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

An RCN report has revealed that nearly half of NHS nurses live in fear of contracting HIV or hepatitis at work because of injuries from needles or other sharp instruments, with one in five worrying about it every day.

An estimated 100,000 health workers suffer needlestick injuries in the UK each year, with at least five cases leading to a worker contracting HIV as a result. Four have subsequently died, the report, Suffering in Silence, reveals.

The RCN said that once nurses are injured they face a postcode lottery when it comes to getting support from HR and other professionals: some hospitals operate very good procedures, but others offer poor back-up.

Sheelagh Brewer, senior employment relations adviser at the RCN, said HR needed to take the lead in making sure risk assessment, management and control procedures to tackle the problem were put in place.

These policies need to look at how needles were used and disposed of; whether and when alternatives could be used; whether there were accident hot-spots – such as A&E departments; and protocols for staff to follow when a nurse reports an injury, Brewer suggested.

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