Rise in needle injuries following collapse of hospital waste disposal firm. Union bosses have blamed the spate on untrained porters being made to work with hazardous materials.
A Scottish health board has admitted 44 people have suffered needle injuries in less than three months.
The incidents at NHS Grampian have come since the collapse of waste disposal firm HES in December last year.
Unions have blamed the spate on untrained porters being made to work with hazardous materials –
including used syringes – without proper safety equipment.
The Sunday Mail can also reveal new contractors who were supposed to be in place by April will not take over until July or August.
A spokesman for the GMB union said: “The findings point towards basic health and safety failings on the part of NHS Grampian.
“Have the staff affected been given proper training, have they been issued with the proper safety equipment, is the employer taking all possible measures to avoid staff injury?
“These are all questions NHS Grampian needs to urgently answer but, against a backdrop of NHS staff working longer and harder, it’s deeply concerning.”
NHS Grampian was asked to provide details of needle stick injuries between December 5, 2018, and the beginning of February 2019.
In response, the health board said: “There were 44 recorded incidents in NHS Grampian in the time frame specified.
“Twenty-three were of negligible severity, 20 of minor severity and one of moderate severity.”
We first told in December how porters had been forced to handle waste in the wake of the HES scandal.
The company was stripped of its contracts over allegations waste had been stockpiled at sites across Scotland.
But it has left staff at Scottish hospitals being told to deal with bags of bloodied dressings, pads and syringes.
NHS Grampian said: “We take the safety of our staff very seriously. Staff are encouraged to report incidents and we use this information to improve safety. Incidents are reported using the DATIX system, which uses the terminology of negligible or minor.
“This classification doesn’t inform the follow-up and treatment provided to the individual as all sharps injuries are treated as serious. These incidents were the number for NHS Grampian as a whole.”
It was previously claimed a new contractor would be in place by April but documents released to Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon reveal that date has been pushed back by at least three months.
Health boards including Ayrshire and Arran, Fife, Grampian and Tayside have confirmed they are using
porters to transport bags of potentially dangerous rubbish to containers outside hospitals.
Pictures given to this newspaper have shown bags awaiting removal at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. One worker suffered a needle injury moving piles of burst bags.
Anyone who suffers needle injuries will face an anxious wait for test results to see if they have been infected with blood viruses. Lennon said: “I’m troubled by the number of accidents involving needles.
“It’s not acceptable. If health boards need additional support, the Health Secretary should be ensuring they have it.
“This clinical waste scandal should never have happened and we still need answers.”
What absolute tosh! Here at the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum and at Blenkharn Environmental we work hard to prevent sharps injury and promote improved standards of hygiene and sharps injury. Perhaps predictably, we say with absolute confidence that this ‘claim’ is complete tosh.
If there has been an increase in sharps injury that is deplorable and must be investigated.
Firstly, who has suffered these mostly negligible severity and minor severity sharps injuries? Actually, we disagree with the terminology and would never consider a sharps injury as negligible or minor since, though infection is perhaps unlikely the psychological trauma that might result cannot be dismissed so easily.
Next, are staff handling any more clinical waste containers, whether sacks or sharps bins, than prior to the loss of HES Ltd? There is just the same amount of clinical waste being produced, to be moved once only from location (a) to location (b). Nothing more is necessary, save for the role of disposal contractors, so additional risks can reasonably be discounted.
Lastly, and though we could go further, the implication is that many sharps injuries arose from handling waste sacks. That is not, by any means, impossible but if idiots in Scottish hospitals put sharps items in thin walled waste sacks intended only for soft wastes heads must roll that isn’t a problem attributed to HES Ltd. Similarly, if staff are not provided with appropriate PPE or they do not wear them, then heads must roll. But once more, that isn’t a problem attributable to HES Ltd.