UK Health and Safety Executive announces sharps regulations review

Friday February 24 2017

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK is set to embark on a review of the current requirements and legislation pertaining to the handling of sharps in the NHS.

A recent investigation carried out by the HSE led to the discovery that just four out of the country's 40 NHS Trusts correctly comply with sharps regulations, meaning that the patients they treat are at minimal risk of transmitting blood-borne infections as a result of needlestick injuries.

The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust was one of the compliant four and has subsequently been asked to assist the HSE with its review in order to advise on areas where it thinks sharps regulations could be improved to further reduce the risk of needle injuries occurring.

Kevin Howell, environment director at the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, commented: "This remarkable achievement is a real testament to our staff working across our three hospital sites.

"I regularly witness our fantastic staff demonstrating our values - commitment, care and quality - when caring not only for their patients, but colleagues as well. I would like to congratulate them on their outstanding efforts."

Investigations conducted by the HSE found that health and safety breaches relating to sharps instruments such as needles and scalpels were identified at 90 per cent of the UK's NHS Trusts, with 83 per cent failing to comply with current regulations.

As a result, almost half (45 per cent) of the country's Trusts were issued with improvement notices and the HSE acknowledged that improvements to its sharps regulations may be needed.

The main risks associated with needle injuries are that they will expose a person's bloodstream to potentially harmful bacteria that could put their health at serious risk. If the injury occurs with a broken or previously used needle, this carries the risk of transmitting HIV and hepatitis C from person to person, meaning the needle injury and improper handling of sharps could prove life-threatening.