UK Nurses Warned Over Helping with Insulin Pen Needle Extraction

November 17, 2016

UK nursing staff are being warned about the potential dangers of extracting insulin from the injector pen devices often used by diabetes patients due to the risk of sharps injuries.

Nursing Times reports NHS Improvement has issued a warning to healthcare professionals that they need to exercise extra care when assisting patients with these devices, as they now contain significantly higher insulin doses than those provided in the past to enable patients to self-administer their diabetes medication at home.

As a result, if a nurse or other medical professional should accidentally stab their own skin while helping a patient to extract insulin from their injector pen, they could end up injecting their own bloodstream with a dangerous level of the substance. This could lead to serious health problems and even death.

What's more, if the patient was suffering from a blood-borne infection such as hepatitis C or HIV, the medic would be at risk of the disease entering their own bloodstream following the sharps injury.

With this in mind, NHS Improvement is issuing new guidance to healthcare workers in order to ensure their own health and that of their patients is protected when needles are being handled.

Specialized equipment is available to enable staff to safely extract needles from diabetes injector pens, but it was found that nurses have been using syringes to perform this task instead, thereby putting themselves at increased risk of a sharps injury.

However, by investing in specialized needle safety caps and making sure all staff are educated about the correct way to dispose of used needles from injector pens, NHS Improvement hopes to see a marked reduction in the number of sharps-related incidents reported each year.

The healthcare body stated: "Organisations should ensure staff are trained and competent in using insulin pens and that training is available.

"Staff and, where appropriate, patients who use pen devices should be routinely provided with safety needles and access to equipment capable of safely removing and disposing of used insulin pen needles."