Needle stick injuries in the NHS
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I am dealing with two claims on behalf of cleaners at Queen Alexandra Hospital at Portsmouth who were injured by dirty needles which were not disposed of properly.
The dirty needles were placed in the ordinary waste instead of the special 'sharps' containers. When the bins were emptied the cleaners were injured by the needles sticking out of the plastic bin bags. This is a very serious incident for those involved.
It takes 6 months for the injured party to get the 'all clear' from the blood tests taken after the incident and in the meantime they are understandably worried and stressed about what diseases they might have contracted from the needles. They may be offered counselling to help them get through that period, but still find themselves suffering nightmares and anxiety for those months and even beyond. Of course not everybody is as lucky as my clients and don't actually get the all clear if they have contracted one of the common infectious diseases.
The two claims I am dealing with both happened at the QA hospital, but not otherwise connected. The cleaners report to me that the problem is still very real and injuries are still occurring today which is quite shocking. I was therefore interested to read that the HSE have published guidelines on the new regulations for prevention of needle stick injuries. Martin Dilworth, an HSE policy advisor in biological hazards, said:
"Sharps injuries are a well-known risk in the healthcare sector. Medical sharps contaminated with an infected patient's blood can transmit pathogens that cause more than 20 diseases, including hepatitis B and C, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
"The new regulations are there to help minimise these risks, and we're publishing free guidance to help the healthcare industry understand its responsibilities."
Guidance for healthcare employers and employees is available from the HSE website.The HSE website explains that employers and contractors working in the healthcare sector will now be required to:
- Have effective arrangements for the safe use and disposal (including using 'safer sharps' where reasonably practicable, restricting the practice of recapping of needles and placing sharps bins close to the point of use.
- Provide the necessary information and training to workers
- Investigate and take action in response to work related sharps injuries.
The link to the HSE website can be found here.
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