NHS Lothian sharpens focus on staff safety

The number of staff suffering cuts or needlestick injuries at work in NHS Lothian has dropped by nearly a third, according to new figures.

There were 296 incidents involved so-called "sharps injuries" in 2006, a drop of 27% on the figure for 2003, which was 403.

A mixture of the introduction of new "safe" technologies and training for staff has been credited as the factors behind the decline.

The new technologies include syringes which automatically retract the needle into the barrel of the syringe after use, and new types of connectors on systems for giving fluid or medication to patients.

Dr Chris Kalman, Director, Occupational Health, NHS Lothian, said:

"We work very hard on the health and safety of our staff. Sharps injuries, and needlestick incidents, are an important risk to health care workers and can have very serious health consequences. "

He added:

"It is gratifying to see this reduction, but there is still scope for further improvements. In recent years we have made greater use of new technologies in the areas of syringes and other clinical devices and equipment which have reduced risks in this area. For instance we now use self-retracting syringes and new types of attachments for feeding patients and supplying medicines to patients which don't have steel needles as in previous versions of this equipment. We are also working hard in training staff about safe handling of sharp objects."

NHS Lothian provides an Occupational Health nurse 24 hour on call system to provide immediate advice and to record events when staff sustain sharps or needlestick injuries.