WHO releases new ebook to promote safety syringes

WHO releases new ebook to promote safety syringes

Friday September 11 2015

A new ebook has been published by the World Health Organization (WHO) to further encourage governments and national bodies to implement safety syringes in their hospitals and other medical settings.

In the document, the United Nations (UN) agency outlines steps that need to be taken to ensure that all injections use safety syringes by 2020. It estimates that around 90 per cent of the 16 billion injections that are delivered each year are for curative care. WHO suggests that the majority of these medical procedures are unnecessary and the same treatment could be delivered by another method.

With this in mind, it is urging hospitals to reduce the number of unnecessary injections that are being carried out. This, WHO argues, is an essential part of the "urgent and clinical strategy" for reducing the transmission of viral infections. 

It recognises how safety devices are just not suitable for certain procedures, such as when multiple medicines need to be administered at once as syringes that only permit one use are unable to mix them adequately.

Disposable syringes are also needed to maintain intravenous lines and for local anaesthetic, with other devices being used to perform these procedures.

However, for the vast majority of the billions of injections that are administered around the world each year safety syringes could be employed.

WHO's goal is to ensure that all injections use safety syringes wherever it is possible by 2020. These safety-engineered devices prevent multiple use and reduce the risk of needlesticks by safeguarding the sharp, therefore protecting the healthcare worker.

In order to achieve this aim, governments need to "set health-system-wide policies and standards for procurement, use and safe disposal of disposable syringes in situations where they remain necessary, including in syringe programmes for people who inject drugs", according to the ebook.

Speaking to governments, it reads: "Develop an implementation strategy for procurement of safety-engineered syringes, training and education of health workers and sound waste management. Establish a targeted communications programme and a framework for evaluating overall progress."

As part of the document, WHO cites a number of examples where not using safety syringes has had a dramatic impact on infection rates.

Back in 2007, an outbreak of hepatitis C outbreak occurred in Nevada, US, after one physician had injected a patient who had the infection. However, the doctor then used this same syringe to withdraw additional doses of the anaesthetic from the same vial, which had obviously been contaminated with the hepatitis C virus. A number of patients were given injections after this, potentially exposing them to infection.

It uses other WHO also presented case studies in India and Egypt where unsafe injection practices has have put people at risk of infections.