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Friday, October 29, 1999 Published at 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK

UK: Scotland

Experts gauge 'safe' syringe

Health workers are at risk from needlesticks

The Scottish Executive has set up an expert working group to assess the benefits of a new syringe which could protect health workers from life-threatening needlestick injuries.

The health union Unison estimates more than 20,000 Scottish health service workers are accidently jagged by needles each year.

This puts them at risk from a range of infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.

Union campaign

In June Unison launched a campaign to persuade hospital trusts to invest in needles with retractable syringes, which are widely used in America.

[ image: The new needles are made in Scotland]
The new needles are made in Scotland
But the cost implications are of concern. The safer needles cost three times the price of standard ones.

The Scottish Executive said it recognised there was a serious issue and it shared Unison's concerns.

The working group will analyse the results of a two-month pilot study at St John's Hospital in Livingston and the conclusions of an audit into how many needlestick injuries occur each year.

It will then report to Health Minister Susan Deacon on whether hospital trusts should change their current practices.

Scotland is already leading the way in the manufacture of safer syringes.

MP's backing

The NMT Group makes the retractable syringes at a plant in Livingston.

Livingston MP and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook gave the saw the new needles when he visited NMT in August.

He said he was convinced the retractable needles would give peace of mind to health workers.

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