Sharps inspection initiative 2015/16

Healthcare workers can be at risk of exposure to blood borne viruses (BBVs) due to the nature of their work. Although rare, injuries from sharps contaminated with an infected patient's blood can transmit more than 20 diseases, including Hepatitis B, C and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We know the number of sharps injuries each year is high, but only a small number are known to have caused infections that become serious illnesses. However, because of the risk of transmission, sharps injuries can worry the many thousands who receive them.

An inspection initiative was carried out in 2015/16 to identify any common causes of non-compliance with legislation designed to protect staff from the risk of exposure to BBVs. A summary document, Prevention and management of sharps injuries: Inspection of NHS Organisations, report the findings.

Summary of initiative

The initiative was focused on 40 organisations; 34 from England (including 3 ambulance Trusts), 4 from Wales, and 2 from Scotland (one a dental hospital). This was not a random sample of NHS organisations. The visits were targeted to organisations where intelligence suggested there might be non-compliance, for example from reported RIDDORs and / or purchasing data.

Key findings

  • Health and safety breaches were identified in 90% of organisations visited.
  •  83% failed to fully comply with the Sharps Regulations.
  • Improvement notices were issued to 45% of the organisations visited

An earlier inspection initiative was carried out in 2010/11 to assess how NHS organisations managed the risks of sharps injuries. A summary document titled Management and Prevention of Sharp Injuries: Inspection of NHS Trusts/Boards reported those findings.

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Updated 2022-04-21