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Saturday, October 10, 1998 Published at 01:25 GMT 02:25 UK


Doctor gets £500k for needle prick

The doctor developed growing anxieties about needles, blood and Aids

A junior doctor has received almost half a million pounds in compensation after accidentally pricking herself with a needle.

June Kelly: "The BMA says the size of the damages reflects a lifetimes's loss of earnings"
The doctor, a house officer in a London hospital, had not picked up any infection from the injury, but she developed a phobia about needles and is now unable to work.

The woman pricked herself on a needle left on a drugs trolley at Charing Cross Hospital, west London, in December 1992.


The doctor, who had been qualified for about a year, developed growing anxieties about needles, blood and Aids. She struggled to work before signing off sick almost two years later.

BMA News Review magazine, to whom the unidentified doctor spoke, reports that she is unable to even leave the house and is unlikely to work as a doctor again.

[ image: The doctor developed a fear about Aids]
The doctor developed a fear about Aids
The woman sought legal help from the British Medical Association, and in September two health authorities involved - North Thames, and Ealing Hammersmith and Hounslow - agreed to pay her £465,000 damages plus legal costs.

Inadequate training

The doctor, who did not want to be identified, told the magazine that she felt there had been inadequate training on what to do after such a needle injury. No occupational health support had been offered, she said.

Her work had suffered greatly: "After the incident, I kept worrying about what I could have caught.

John Andrews reports: "The accident happened six years ago"
"I began to avoid high-risk patients. I hid in the loo so someone else would deal with them. I avoided stitching wounds and pretended blood tests I had never taken had got lost.

"I thought I had been lucky once but it could easily happen again. I could not trust my colleagues to dispose of their sharps safely."

The BMA said the case illustrated how vital it was for junior doctors to be properly trained in disposing of needles and reporting accidents.

It said the doctor had sought legal representation after reading in the News Review of a doctor who had sat on a needle and won damages - with the help of the BMA.

The doctors' association said: "This is a good result for the doctor, whose life and career have been desperately ruined by the incident."

Pay-out 'too high'

But the head of the Patients' Association, Claire Rayner, said the damages appeared "much too high".

She said: "I feel very sorry for this doctor, and she should certainly have received more support after the accident.

"But all doctors and nurses have to accept there is some sort of risk in their work. How many nurses, front-line staff, get black eyes or other injuries and never dream of suing?

"This is money the NHS cannot afford."

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