Paramedic's Needlestick Ordeal From Overdose Patient

PARAMEDIC John Clements received a needle-stick injury when he attended a drug user who had taken an overdose. John, who was due to get married, was tested for hepatitis and HIV, and had to endure months of worry and trauma while he waited for the results.

His wife Heather said: "It was as if our whole world had collapsed around us. "We were in the process of arranging our wedding and we had this hanging over us. I was obviously upset, angry as well, because there are safe needles available, but because of the cost, the NHS Trusts are not using them."

John's union, Unison, took the case, which involved challenging his employers, the Scottish Ambulance Service, to the Court of Session. Three Appeal Judges ruled that the NHS couldn't refuse to introduce safety syringes on cost grounds alone as that breached employment and safety laws.

Negotiations around the test case were concluded in John's favour. The union's solicitors, Thompsons, said: "What it means is for every day the NHS don't introduce safer needles they're in breach of national and European Law. Effectively, this means the Scottish Executive must introduce safer, retractable needles that reduce the risk of needle-stick injury.

John said: "I think it's long overdue. Safe needles have been used in England, so I don't see why we cannot have them."

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