What are needlestick injuries?

Needlestick injuries are injuries caused by needles, and are a major concern in healthcare because of the risk of infection with blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Although the risk of a healthcare worker being infected with HIV from a patient is low, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Groups most at risk of needlestick injuries are nurses, laboratory technicians, phlebotomists (people who take blood samples from patients), operating theatre staff, hospital porters and cleaners.

If you have suffered a needlestick injury, contact your occupational health department or go to the Accident and Emergency department immediately. They may think it necessary for you to take anti-AIDS drugs, and the sooner you start taking these, the more effective they are.

In 2013, the Health and Safety (Sharp Instruments in Healthcare) Regulations 2013 came into force to help protect nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants from needlestick injuries and infection. The Regulations, which implement the EU Council Directive 2010/32/EU on the prevention of sharps injuries in the hospital and healthcare sector, were introduced after lobbying by UNISON and the Royal College of Nursing and includes guidance for training, support and prevention of needlestick injuries.

The directive applies to NHS, private and voluntary sector healthcare employers, including staff providing services in patients’ homes and contractors such as bank nurses. 

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.