Needlestick and sharps injuries
The prevention of sharps injuries to nurses and health care assistants has been a key campaign issue for the RCN. In a 2008 survey of members 48% of respondents said that at some point in their careers they had been stuck by a needle or other sharp that had been used on a patient. The survey also showed that there are inadequate systems in place for follow up once and incident has occurred.
Sharps and needlestick injuries can be prevented through safe systems of work, using safety engineered devices and appropriate training. The RCN has called for a legislative solution to the ongoing problem of sharps injuries to health care workers.
The RCN is a member of the safer needles network which aims to minimise the number of needlestick injuries by promoting preventative measures and safer systems of working such as improved training and education, use of standard precautions, the provision of safer needles and safe disposal of sharps.
In 2009 a framework agreement on the prevention of sharps injuries to health care workers was reached between European trade unions (EPSU) and European health care employer representatives (HOSPEEM). As a member of EPSU, the RCN played a role in developing the agreement. A European Directive adopted in May 2010 means that member states including the UK have until May 2013 to transpose the framework agreement into national law. The Council Directive 2010/32/EU and agreement can be found at www.europeanbiosafetynetwork.eu
RCN guidance to support implementation of the EU Directive 2010/32/EU on the prevention of sharps injuries in the health sector is available to download. Go to Sharps Safety (PDF 844KB) [see how to access PDF files].