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Needlestick Injuries

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2003

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If he will make a statement on needlestick injuries. [109803]

The Government recognise that the number of needlestick injuries occurring in the NHS is still too high. The Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton), recently met the all-party parliamentary group on occupational safety and health and agreed that new guidance will be issued to the service in the autumn.

Given that the annual cost of treating NHS workers who have suffered needlestick injuries is estimated to be in the order of £300 million and that the estimated saving from acquiring safer needles could be about £140 million, and given that even when needlestick injuries are subsequently shown not to have caused serious physical harm they almost always cause immense emotional trauma, will my hon. Friend join me in supporting the objectives of the Needle Stick Injury Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt)?

My hon. Friend is right that needlestick injuries are a serious issue in the NHS. They cause immense distress to staff, especially when they are waiting for the test results to discover whether they have been infected. That is why we support the work of the safer needles network and why the Department works with trade unions and staff on that issue. Safer devices have a role to play. Equally important, however, is excellent training for staff on how to use those devices, and refresher training has been proven to reduce the number of incidents dramatically. On the Bill, health and safety legislation requires incidents to be reported. We want those regulations to be used as much as possible to ensure that we have the fullest possible information so that we can support staff in those difficult conditions.