Date Published: 21 November 2008

Half of nurses injured by needles while a third fear contracting HIV or Hepatitis

Almoast half of all nurses (48%) have been stuck by a needle that had previously been used on a patient, according to a new report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). The report also shows that a third (34%) feel at risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C following such injuries.

The results are published in the RCN's Needlestick Injury in 2008 report which will be launched to MPs, Peers and stakeholders at the House of Commons later today. The report outlines nurses' experiences and perceptions of needlestick injuries.

The report highlights that in the vast majority of cases (90%), nurses said their last needlestick injury drew blood. After telling their employer, the findings show that more than one in four nurses (28%) did not receive any employer advice about the risk of blood-borne diseases following the incident.

The majority of employers (94%) have a sharps' policy that covers prevention and reporting, yet just half of nurses (55%) have received any form of training from their employer on safer needle use.

Commenting on the surveys', Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said:

It is clear that needle injuries are an everyday threat for nurses up and down the country. With potentially lethal consequences, being stuck by a needle can be a very traumatic experience, yet too many employers in the NHS fail to provide the necessary support to nurses. It is therefore no surprise that over half of nurses (52%) are working in fear of being stuck and injured by a needle.

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. Nurses should also receive full support from their employers when they sustain an injury because no one wants to feel isolated and alone when going through such trauma.

We look forward to working with the Government, regulators and employers to solve this widespread problem.

The report also found that that nurses want their employers to do more to prevent needlestick injuries. For example, 95% of nurses regarded the availability of safer needle devices as either essential or preferable.

The report also found that:

  • 96% of nurses use needles as part of their job.
  • More than a quarter (28%) of nurses injured by a needlestick did not receive any advice about the risk of blood borne diseases afterwards and in the case of community/non hospital staff, this figure increased to 42%.
  • Only a third of nurses working within the NHS who had suffered an injury regarded the support offered by their employers as adequate. While for those working outside the NHS (45%) were dissatisfied with the support offered.
  • Nurses that already have access to safer needle devices are more likely to regard them as essential - in 70% of cases compared with 40% of those who do not have them, suggesting that those with experience of these devices are more likely to see the benefit.

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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