An NHS Trust has been invited to take part in the Health and Safety Executive’s review of the sharps regulations, after it became one of four trusts out of 40 across the UK to comply with the regulations.
A sharps injury is an incident which causes a needle, blade (such as scalpel) or other medical instrument to penetrate the skin. The HSE inspection programme assessed how NHS organisations identify, manage and protect staff from the risks of exposure from blood borne viruses caused by sharps injuries.
Inspectors observed practices and questioned staff across West Hertfortshire Hospitals NHS. The HSE reported that they didn’t identify any common breaches with sharps legislation.
Health and safety breaches were identified in 90% of the organisations visited, 83% failed to fully comply with the sharps regulations and improvement notices were issued to 45%.
Kevin Howell, Director of Environment, at West Hertfortshire Hospitals NHS said: “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.”
Sharing best practice, that is the foundation for this new approach, is never a bad thing. However, the poor standards of performance of so many NHS Trusts is of great concern.
Regrettably, it cannot pass unchallenged that ” The HSE reported that they didn’t identify any common breaches with sharps legislation”. This begs the question, what were they looking for and do HSE really have a comprehensive understanding of the wider issues involved that include poor hospital sharps safety performance placing ancillary staff, cleaners, porters and 3rd-party waste contractors at unacceptable risk?
It remains a great concern that the UK and EU Sharps legislation is exclusively healthcare specific. Other H&S legislation will cover those failures in safe sharps management but is rarely if ever used. That is a failure of HSE, a failure on the part of those who employ workers placed at risk by the deficiencies of others, and employers not in the healthcare sector who fail to protect their workers with training and suitable PPE etc.
We can, and should, all do a lot better.