Safer needles campaign launched by lobby groups

A campaign has been launched by unions and health lobby groups to pressure
the Government into introducing safer needles into hospitals, clinics and
doctor’s surgeries, and to draw up guidelines for their safer use.

The ‘Safer Needles Now’ campaign was launched in February, bringing together
Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Assoication and the
Safer Needles Network.

Along with clear guidance to NHS institutions on how best to minimise the
risk of sharps injuries, the campaign wants to see the NHS adopt safer needle
technology, and put proper surveillance and reporting procedures in place.

Other demands include having comprehensive preventative measures in place,
proper risk assessment leading to appropriate safer working practices, and
better training and education in safe use and disposal of sharps.

The Department of Health is due to publish guidelines in June, but
campaigners have pointed out that they were supposed to be published three
years ago.

Needlestick injuries are the second most common injury in the NHS, and four
NHS workers have already died from HIV contracted from infected needles.

The National Audit Office has concluded that more than one-third of nurses
and half of agency nurses are injured by a needle at some point in their
career. Around 23,000 needlestick injuries are recorded each year. But with
many people never bothering to report them, the real figure could be as high as

Unison head of health Karen Jennings said: "Safer needles are
available, and so subjecting thousands of NHS workers to the terror of dirty
needles is unnecessary and inhumane.

"It costs pennies to provide safer needles," Jennings added.
"When you add up the cost of treating someone with a needlestick injury –
the tests, post-exposure treatment, time off and compensation – all this is
nothing compared with the human misery and anxiety caused by this sort of


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