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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 00:11 GMT
Call for safer needles in the NHS
As many as 100,000 NHS staff may suffer needlestick injuries each year
Healthcare workers are calling on the government to release safety guidelines for needle use in the NHS.

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

Campaigners are calling for safety mechanisms such as retractable needles or needles with safety guards.

Dr Paul Grime, of the Safer Needles Network, says it is a "significant problem that is often forgotten about".

Retractable and safety needles spring back into the barrel of the syringe immediately after the needle has been used, protecting the clinician from injury or infection.

Risk of infection

The campaign, 'Safer Needles Now' demands better information and training in relation to the use of needles in healthcare.

Safer Needles Campaigners
Beverley Malone, Karen Jennings and MP Laura Moffat launch the campaign.
It is being led by the Royal College of Nursing, Unison and the British Medical Association.

It follows a report released by the National Audit Office which revealed over one-third of nurses and half of agency nurses had been injured by a needle at some point in their career.

There are currently 12 cases of HIV infection among NHS workers in the UK that are suspected to have been caused by needlestick injuries.

Around 23,000 cases of needlestick injury are recorded each year, however it's believed the incidence could be as high as 100,000.

Needlestick injuries are estimated to cost each NHS trust 500,000 per year.

New guidelines

The Department of Health is set to release guidelines on the issue around June.

Campaigners have criticised the department saying the guidelines were supposed to come out almost three years ago.

You can raise awareness, train and educate people and make available safer equipment, such as retractable needles and safety guards on needles
Dr Paul Grime, Chairman, Safer Needles Now
Minutes released from the Treasury's Committee of Public Accounts suggest the Department of Health should encourage NHS trusts to "adopt a comprehensive strategy for dealing with risk of needlestick injuries".

A spokesperson for the department said it was still committed to releasing the guidelines.

"The timescale for publishing this response has been extended to allow issues which have arisen as part of the Shipman Inquiry and the roll-out of occupational health smartcard scheme, to be considered."

Dr Grime told BBC News Online there were several ways to reduce the incidence of needlestick injuries.

"You can raise awareness, train and educate people and make available safer equipment, such as retractable needles and safety guards on needles."

"Needlestick injuries are avoidable."

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