Needlestick injuries are skin punctures caused by hypodermic needles. Such injuries are a common hazard for those who work in the healthcare industry and usually occur as a result of needles being discarded in a careless fashion. They are also known as sharps injuries.
Available statistics probably underestimate the severity of the problem because many workers do not report their injuries.
In 2019, the results of a survey revealed the extent of needlestick injuries amongst surgeons. The survey was conducted by SERMO for Mölnlycke and found that 94% of practicing UK surgeons have either suffered a needlestick injury or witnessed a colleague suffering one.
According to a survey published in the Journal of Hospital Infection in 2003, around 100,000 needlestick incidents occur across the NHS each year.
In a confidential survey dating back to 2004, 300 healthcare professionals were asked about their personal experience of needlestick injury and their attitudes to reporting. From the 279 individuals who responded, 38% had experienced at least one needlestick injury in the preceding 12 month period, with 74% having sustained such an injury during their career.
Although 80% of respondents were aware that such incidents should be notified, only 51% of those affected had reported all needlestick injuries. Doctors were found to be less likely to report than nurses, despite a higher propensity to injury.
While Scotland has been fortunate in recent years in that there has been no known occurrence of needlestick injury causing serious life threatening consequences, in a society with an increasing number of patients with HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and CJD, there is a potential risk of serious illness and of fatalities.
Another detrimental factor is the mental trauma faced by the individual in trying to cope with the fear that they have been infected.
How Thompsons has impacted the use of needles in the NHS
Thompsons Personal Injury Solicitors has been at the forefront in addressing this issue and indeed Patrick McGuire, in his cases of Clement -v- Scottish Ambulance Service, and Skinner -v- Scottish Ambulance Service was successful in establishing that the use of traditional needles by branches of the NHS can be considered a breach of the country's health and safety legislation.
While previously the NHS had ruled out recommending the introduction of safety devices due to their costs, the Court took the view that the NHS's refusal to introduce safety syringes on cost grounds alone was a breach of employment and safety laws. In light of these appeal cases, the then Health Minister at the Scottish Parliament, Andy Kerr, announced a review of the use of needles across the entire NHS.
The Health and Safety (Sharps Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 implement an EU Council Directive on the prevention of needlestick injuries within the hospital and healthcare sector. The HSE has produced an information sheet on the regulations which can be accessed here.
It explains, among other things, how to dispose of sharps safely, what training is required for healthcare and associated workers, and correct procedure for handling a needlestick injury.
Would you like to discuss your sharps injury with a personal injury solicitor?
If you have had an accident involving needles call our No Win No Fee Lawyers FREE on 0800 0891 331. We can investigate matters for you and advise you on your first step towards receiving the compensation you deserve.
We understand that this can be an extremely worrying time for you and strive to handle your claim as sensitively as possible.