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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 10:02 GMT
HIV risk prompts renewed safety calls

hospital corridor Unison says action to protect workers is vital

Scottish NHS workers' lives are being put at risk through needlestick injuries, according to health union Unison.

The union has identified five health workers who have contracted HIV in the past few years due to needle accidents.

Two of those have already died and the union has renewed its call for the introduction of safety syringes.

Retractable needle The needle withdraws into the syringe barrel
The union has written to the Scottish Executive's health committee asking for a meeting to look at bringing in the changes.

Union spokesman Jim Devine said: "Jane Robinson, a student nurse, died in 1996 as a result of a needlestick injury she received while working in hospital pathology department.

"She received 187,000 compensation.

"Kathryn McCarthy also died in 1996 as a results of a needlestick injury. She was a nurse in the navy who also contracted HIV while taking a routine blood sample from a patient.

"She was recovering the syringe when she was jostled from behind and slipped, sticking the infected needle into the base of her thumb."

'Lives at risk'

Mr Devine said the "avoidable epidemic" was putting health service workers' lives at risk.

He added that technology, in the form of retractable safety syringes, was available and should be looked at in more death by the health committee.

Last month a report by a hospital carrying out tests of the safer needles warned that the costs were prohibitive.

The trials were commissioned by the Scottish Executive after allegations that more than 20,000 members of staff were being accidentally pricked by syringes each year.

Leaked report

The leaked report conceded that the new syringes were safer but voiced some concern about the extra cost.

The executive bowed to pressure and agreed to consider the results of a number of pilot projects across Scotland.

The first to report on their use was St John's Hospital in Livingston.

It stated that staff in four areas - including accident and emergency - found many advantages to the retractable needles.

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See also:
09 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Safety syringes 'too costly'
21 Jul 99 |  Health
Nurses 'complacent' over needle injuries
23 Jun 99 |  Health
Union plea for new syringe
03 Aug 99 |  Health
Safer syringes win over minister
29 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Experts gauge 'safe' syringe

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