Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
MONDAY 12 MAY 2003
Q200 Mr Steinberg: What is being
done to ensure that needles are not left lying around? That is
presumably how it happens, they are just left lying around.
Sir Nigel Crisp: No, I do not
think it is.
Q201 Mr Steinberg: It is more sophisticated
than that, is it?
Sir Nigel Crisp: They are not
just left lying around.
Q202 Mr Steinberg: Do the doctors
say, "Hey, you, arrgh!"
Mr Foster: I do not think that
is the most common cause of needlestick injury, where they are
just left lying around. Clearly there is a whole process here
from when you pick it up in the first place to when you use it,
to when you put it down for other staff. I do not think they are
just being left lying around.
Q203 Mr Steinberg: How does the £2,000
per prick work out?
Mr Foster: I think that is a
Q204 Mr Steinberg: Why was it not
£1,500 or £2,500?
Mr Foster: This is not an official
sum, this is a sort of going rate which has been emerging.
Q205 Mr Steinberg: It says here,
"UNISON have negotiated a deal with employers whereby claims
against NHS trusts for certain needlestick injuries are immediately
settled by the trust for £2,000." So somebody gets stuck
and goes off to the chief executive and says, "I have been
stuck by a needle", and then there is a cheque for £2,000
by the sound of things. It does not work like that?
Mr Foster: As I say, it is a figure
which has emerged through a series of case studies, where there
is a demonstrable case of mental stress which has resulted from
the needlestick injury. It is not an automatic payment. Clearly
the employer has got to balance a duty of care to an employee
who has been afflicted in this way with the cost of being taken
to an employment tribunal and all the legal costs, and I think
this is a sort of rule of thumb figure which sorts that out.
Q206 Mr Steinberg: If you can get
£2,000 for being stuck by a needle, why are 23% not reported?
The first thing I would do if I was stuck by a needle would be
to report it and go and get my £2,000.
Sir Nigel Crisp: We do not have
the details here but it does say very clearly that this is for
certain needlestick injuries, and presumably it is ones where
the employer is going to be found at fault, which would not be
Q207 Mr Steinberg: You do not mean
the employeryes, sorry, you mean the person who has stuck
themselves and missed.
Sir Nigel Crisp: There are 250
million a year so 23,000 is serious but not very big.
Q208 Chairman: This memorandum we
received from the Safer Needles Network
says that five health care workers asserted they acquired HIV
occupationally, four of whom are deceased, a further 12 health
care workers have probably acquired HIV occupationally. So it
can be very serious but equally if the needle has not yet found
its way into the patient, it is not very serious at all, I would
think. So we need further reassurance from you that this is being
dealt with properly.
Mr Foster: May I make one point?
As I understand it, none of those cases were in the UK, those
are not NHS cases, those are worldwide. So presumably the figure
of 250 billion can be multiplied by a lot. We do not have a record,
as I understand it, of anybody acquiring HIV.
Q209 Chairman: Thank you for making
that clear. That is important. Thank you very much for appearing
in front of us today, it was an interesting hearing. There is
clearly a cost of something like £170 million. After our
last hearing various assurances were given, a target was made
but this target has not been met. It may indeed be true that the
target has not been met because people are encouraged to report
more but that does beg the question whether the target was thought
through satisfactorily in the first place. We also still have
this point which was particularly dealt with by my colleague,
Mr Williams, in paragraph 17, that there was little information
in 1996 on the cost of accidents. "Despite Departmental initiatives
to encourage NHS trusts to introduce procedures for assessing
the costs of accidents, little progress has been made." So
presumably my colleagues will wish to return to this in our report
which will be published shortly. Thank you very much.
Sir Nigel Crisp: Thank you.
8 Ev 23-25 Back