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Safer Sharps

Sharps Directive

As a result of lobbying by various bodies including the RCN, The Safer Needles Network, UNISON, HSE and NHS Employers, EU Directive 2010/32/EU was adopted in May 2010.

The aims of the directive are:

  • To achieve the safest possible working environment for healthcare workers.
  • To prevent healthcare workers injuries caused by all medical sharps.
  • To protect healthcare workers at risk.
  • To set up an integrated approach, establishing policies in risk assessment, risk prevention, training, information, awareness raising and monitoring.
  • To put in place response and follow up procedures.

See our Useful Links section to view the Directive on the EU Law website.

The process of implementing Safer Sharps at the trust has been a successful one. It was a long process, identifying all sharps that pose a risk, carrying out risk assessments and identifying alternatives that would best suit our practices. What was a complicated project was made a lot easier with the early involvement of all stakeholders, and robust clinical trials took place. Plans were put in place which provided us with a firm platform to work from enabling an organised and streamlined project. The assistance we received from Karen Hudson, Clinical Nurse Advisor at NHS Supply Chain, who shared her experience and knowledge of products, gave us a focused view on clinically compliant, but also cost effective, products. Looking at our current practices it was identified we could use alternative products that actually result in overall cost savings for the trust. The efficiency of the project has in itself kept costs to a minimum. The help and support received from Karen, and NHS Supply Chain, has been invaluable, we have a greater understanding of products, suppliers and practices that can be changed to simply result in savings or cost avoidance.

Allan Smith, Senior Procurement Officer
Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust

What is a needlestick injury?

Needlestick injuries occur when healthcare workers jab themselves or a colleague with a needle, or other sharp medical device, which is contaminated with potentially infected blood. An ongoing RCN surveillance project suggests that as many as 100,000 needlestick accidents occur in the UK every year.

See our Useful Links section to visit the Safer Needles Network website for further information.

In a 2008 RCN survey of members, 48% of respondents said that at some point in their careers they had been stuck by a needle or other sharp that had been used on a patient.

What does this mean to my trust?

Legislation comes into effect on 11 May 2013. By this time all trusts should have a robust work plan in place, which may include the transition to safety versions of Syringes and Needles, IV Cannulae, Blood Collection Systems and Blood Lancets.

Independent studies have shown that training, safer working practices and the use of safety engineered devices can prevent more than 80% of needlestick injuries (Cullen BL et al. Potential for reported needlestick injury safety device usage J Hosp Infection 2006).

Will it cost my trust more to change to the new safety products?

There may be some increase in cost on syringes and needles, due to the extra safety features and more raw materials; however we have seen that conversions to safer IV cannulae have had little impact on costs, even generating savings in some cases.

Also, the slight increase in cost may be outweighed by the savings with reduced legal costs. Bevan Brittan, a legal firm that represents the NHS, has suggested that needlestick injuries cost each NHS trust £500,000 each year in legal costs. In addition to the financial burden, there are the risks to health and emotional distress to healthcare workers that can be severe and long lasting – adding up to further costs as staff will take time off.

How we can help?

NHS Supply Chain ran a number of successful regional events throughout March 2013 focussing on raising awareness of the EU Directive 2010/32/EU and the support available from NHS Supply Chain to help trusts implement changes to their clinical processes. We would like to thank all the NHS clinical staff who attended the events. Don’t worry if you were unable to attend, we can still help you.

Our clinical nurse advisors are experienced professionals who can work with clinical teams at your trusts to give expert advice on the effective implementation of the guidance; help with a joint implementation plan as well as discussing product and supply options.

See our Downloads ▼ section to view details of the products by framework available on our online catalogue that have a safer sharps alternative.

To find out how we can help your trust, contact our Hospital Care Team.

Downloads ▼

  • Safer Sharps Product Listing

    An Excel file showing the products available on our online catalogue that have a safer sharps alternative. Last updated 4 July 2023.
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