New needle destruction device has the potential to reduce needlestick injuries

Published on Thursday, 16 August 2012 15:31
Written by Scott Buckler

A new device that destroys syringe needles immediately after use, rendering them harmless, is now available in the UK

The Sharps Terminator®, which destroys the needle shaft in a single-handed action leaving the user with only the plastic syringe, has the potential to significantly reduce the number of needlestick injuries reported by healthcare workers every year in the UK.

It is estimated that around 100,000 needlestick injuries occur each year, but as many as 60–80 per cent may go unreported, making it impossible to estimate the true extent of the problem.1,2  According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), at least 48 per cent of nurses during their working life will have been injured by a needle or sharp that had previously been used on a patient.3  Most needlestick injuries occur soon after the needle has been withdrawn from the patient,4  so by totally eliminating the needle directly after use, the Sharps Terminator® removes the immediate risk of a needlestick injury to the healthcare worker and others who may be injured during the disposal process.

In 2010 the European Union introduced a new directive (Council Directive 2010/32/EU) to prevent injuries and infections to health care workers, which must be implemented by all healthcare providers in the UK by May 2013.5 The introduction of The Sharps Terminator® supports the recommendations of this directive as it ensures that healthcare providers are able to do the following:

Implement safe procedures for using and disposing of sharp medical instruments and contaminated wasteProvide sharps disposal equipment as close as possible to the assessed areas where sharps are being used or foundPrevent the need to recap the needle which is soon to be banned

The lightweight, portable, battery powered Sharps Terminator® operates via a single-step process that is extremely simple to use and works with a wide range of needles, including regular intravenous and butterfly needles. Once the needle is withdrawn from the patient, the healthcare worker simply inserts the needle into The Sharps Terminator® and holds it for 3 seconds. As the needle body completes a circuit between two angled copper electrodes, resistance from the needle creates sufficient heat to destroy the metal portion of the needle from the tip to the hub. The Sharps Terminator® then cuts the plastic "hub" above the needle so that no metal is left on the syringe.  Finally, the debris from the needle falls into a clean-out tube at the base of the device where it is exposed to UV light to eliminate contaminants.  The remaining plastic syringe is no longer a sharp and can be disposed of in a regular medical waste container.

Despite the introduction of safety needle devices over a decade ago, and the vast majority of healthcare employers (94 per cent) having a sharps policy that covers prevention and reporting, the incidence of needlestick injuries has not fallen.6 In some Trusts the use of safety needle devices remains low, either due to cost issues or lack of familiarity or preference for the devices by staff.7,8

Trusts that have introduced safety needle devices have only been able to show a significant reduction in needlestick injuries when staff are supported by a continuous enhanced sharps awareness training strategy.9 Outside of a dedicated programme, awareness training is difficult to sustain due to frequent staff turnover and the large variety of safety needle devices available to the NHS.10 Indeed, a survey undertaken by the Royal College of Nurses found that less than half (45 per cent) of the nurses questioned had received any training from their employer on safe needle use.3 Figures given by the NHS Litigation Authority show a continuous increase in the number of claims and the cost of those claims being submitted by healthcare workers.10

An independent study has shown that a combination of training, safer working practices and the use of medical devices incorporating sharps protection mechanisms can prevent more than 80 per cent of needlestick and sharps injuries.11

The Sharps Terminator®, more than any other device available, allows for the most complete prevention of needlestick injuries and consequential blood-borne pathogen risk. The use of this device with its incorporated safety-engineered protection mechanisms will encourage changes in practice and eliminate the unnecessary use of sharps.  If introduced into routine clinical practice, the Sharps Terminator™ has the potential to reduce the costs and resources required to manage needlestick injuries to staff which is currently increasing at a rate of 14% year on year.

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