Page last updated at 01:40 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Nurses warn over needle injuries

Five health staff have caught HIV after needle injuries

Nurses are calling for safer needles, after a poll suggested nearly half of them have been accidently jabbed.

The Royal College of Nursing said simple shielded needles could stop most accidents and protect nurses from infections such as HIV and hepatitis.

But the poll of nearly 2,000 nurses in the UK suggests that nearly half do not have access to safer needle devices.

An NHS spokeswoman said policies to reduce needle accidents were already being followed.


Needlestick injuries have long been a concern for many health staff since cases started emerging of infections being transmitted.

Since figures started to be collected in the late 1990s, 11 health staff have caught hepatitis from needle jabs and five HIV transmissions have also been confirmed.

Needle protected by shield
Nearly half of nurses say they do not have access to safer needles

Now nurses' representatives are calling for safer alternatives - such as shielded needles which have a collar of plastic to prevent accidental jabs.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: "It is clear that needles injuries are an everyday threat for nurses.

"Government and employers in the NHS need to start taking this issue seriously by introducing needle policies and investing in safer alternatives to traditional needles so that these accidents don't happen in the first place."

The survey found that 48% of nurses had been stuck by a needle previously used on a patient during their career.

And a quarter of those who said they had suffered such injuries reported that they did not receive help from their employer - drugs can be given to reduce the risk of transmission.

Just 55% said they had received training about using needles safely.

An NHS Employers spokeswoman said: "Needlesticks and sharps injuries are a significant issue affecting NHS staff health, safety and welfare.

"NHS Employers has produced extensive guidance for trusts on handling needlestick injuries.

"We know that NHS trusts take the issue of needlestick injuries very seriously, but we acknowledge the concerns raised in the RCN report."

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