Are the days of the sharps bin numbered?

Safety sharps are being widely introduced in the UK, late, but better late than never.

For establishments using fully automated safety needle and syringe devices that sheath or fully retract the needle immediately after use, the route for disposal must now be considered.

Do these need a sharps bin?

Is it necessary to pay a premium for disposal of wastes which no longer present a risk of sharps injury?

Of course, for manually activated devices that require some action by the user, a sharps bin would be essential since errors can be made that would see the device discarded with the needle fully exposed. But elsewhere, where a fully automatic sharps device has been introduced alongside an entire range of other safety sharps devices including suture needles and blades, then the days of the sharps bin may be numbered, except for a few very specialist devices for which a safer alternative is not available.

That will tidy many areas of the wards, departments and laboratories, freeing space and increasing convenience as well as reducing costs in supply and disposal of bins.

The idea is supported by the approach to those electrical and electronic devices, and the similar mechanical devices, which vaporise or snip the needle from its mount. These permit disposal of the remaining syringe and hub assembly into a sack, so why not a fully automated and failsafe retractable needle and syringe?

There are savings to accrue in disposal charges, container supply and logistics, as well as space and hygiene advantages. Formal proof for those savings might come from carefully managed studies that may also assess the impact of such change in practice on sharps injury rate. If the advantages are proven, and injury rate remains the same or is further reduced, then this may add weight to the decision making process that presently encourages many Trusts to opt for the cheaper but less reliable active safety devices that require input from the user, a situation where mistakes or omissions can be deadly.

A radical idea?

Remember, you heard it first on the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum!







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