Safe storage of injections 'just as important as safe administration'

Tuesday January 17 2017

When injection safety issues are usually in the news, it tends to be due to sharps injuries that have the potential to transmit life-threatening blood-borne infections from person to person.

To prevent needlestick injuries from occurring, it is vital that healthcare workers follow best practice safety standards at all times and use specialist sharps safety devices wherever possible. But it is arguably equally as important for medical staff to make sure injections are being stored, as well as administered, safely.

In the UK, more than 600 patients need to be re-injected with vaccines after the Care Quality Commission discovered they were being stored at the wrong temperature at a Leeds-based GP surgery.

An inspection by the healthcare body led to the discovery that a number of vaccines were stored in fridges that were not kept at the right temperature of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius before being administered to patients. In this case, the change in prescribed temperature did not pose any harm to the patients who received the injections, but it did render them invalid.

However, if this had been a different vaccine that was incorrectly stored at the wrong temperature, the consequences may potentially have been significantly more harmful, possibly proving life-changing or even fatal for patients.

A spokesperson for NHS England North (Yorkshire and Humber) commented: "NHS England is committed to ensuring patients have access to safe, high-quality primary care services.

"We have worked with the practice to identify the causes of this issue and to support them to put plans in place to minimize the risk of this happening again."

This incident serves as a reminder that vaccines need to be safely handled from the moment they are manufactured, to when they are delivered to a hospital or GP practice, and again when they are being administered and later disposed of.

For example, surgical gloves should be worn at all times when vaccines are being handled, regular checks should be made to monitor the temperature of the area where they are being stored and designated sharps disposal boxes should always be available in healthcare settings to prevent blood contamination and needlestick injuries from occurring.