A guide to making a No Win No Fee needlestick injury claim
Although procedures are in place to help prevent needlestick injuries, a report by Public Health England (PHE) in December 2014 warned that "healthcare workers continue to be at risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses through occupational sharps injuries".
Reported exposures in 2013 were 496, a 33% increase on the number a decade earlier.
What exactly is a needlestick injury?
A needlestick injury - sometimes called a percutaneous injury - occurs when the flesh is punctured by a hypodermic needle or similar piece of medical equipment, like a scalpel.
As well as causing bleeding, swelling and tenderness at the site of the puncture, needles contaminated with an infected patient's blood can transmit over 20 diseases.
Over a 10 year period it is estimated that of the 4,830 significant exposures to healthcare workers 30% involved a source patient with HIV, 54% with Hepatitis C and 9% with Hepatitis C.
How are needlestick injuries caused and who is at risk?
Most needlestick injuries are a result of needles and sharps not being correctly disposed of, and are preventable.
Despite hospitals having rigorous disposal procedures in place, healthcare workers are the main group at risk, due to the volume of hypodermic syringes and sharp instruments used.
65% of their injuries take place during clinical procedures in wards, A&E departments and operating theatres.
Unfortunately, because hypodermic needles may be discarded in public places, such as parks, public toilets and alleyways, anyone may come into contact with used needles.
As well as healthcare workers, Quittance's team of solicitors have handled claims on behalf of people working in the following occupations:
- Council workers
- Waste disposal operatives
- Police officers
- Prison officers
How can the risks be reduced?
- Workers should be provided with appropriate training on the handling and disposal of needles where they may be at risk of contact.
- Where sharps bins are provided for the disposal of sharps these should always be used.
- Sharps bins should be emptied and replaced regularly to prevent over-filling.
- People working where there is a risk of coming into contact with discarded needles should be issued with personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes safety boots, knee pads, heavy duty gloves, tongs and litter pickers.
- Discarded needles should never be held with the bare hand and no worker should be expected to deal with them without adequate protection.
- Workers should never be expected to put their hands into places they cannot see, such as inside drains or in a U bend of pipes.
- Those who may be at risk should consider vaccination for Hepatitis B and Tetanus.
Other suggested measures include the provision of disposal containers and night-time security by local councils in known problem areas. Medical manufacturers are being urged to replace standard hypodermic needles with safer needles which retract or are destroyed after use.
Injury and illness arising from a needlestick puncture wound
Needlestick injuries can have serious consequences if untreated. Even if a needlestick injury inflicted by a medical professional is not itself negligent, failure to appropriately treat the injury may amount to negligence.
The following procedures should be carried out to reduce the risk of further injury:
- Encourage the wound to gently bleed, ideally holding it under running water
- Wash the wound using running water and plenty of soap, but do not scrub
- Do not suck the wound
- Dry the wound and cover with a waterproof plaster or dressing
- Seek urgent medical advice as medicines are available to help fight infection
It is likely that blood tests will be taken, with follow ups in 3, 6 and 12 months to allow viruses to show up on the tests.
The transmission of infection depends on a number of factors, including the person's natural immune system.
Although the number of injuries each year is high, only a small number cause infections leading to serious illness.
Psychological harm and needle injuries
Anxiety about the potential consequences of a needlestick injury may have a significant personal impact on an individual as may side effects of any medical treatment.
No Win, No Fee needlestick injury compensation claims explained
A No Win, No Fee agreement, referred to as a CFA or Conditional Fee Agreement, forms a key piece of most claims for injury compensation.
The CFA details the work delivered by the solicitor and the success fee. This will be the fee that will be taken from the award once your case is successful.
Find total peace of mind knowing that there is absolutely nothing to pay at the outset. You have absolutely no hidden costs when working with a Quittance personal injury lawyer.
Quittance offer detailed information to help people affected by injury determine whether to proceed.
Find more answers online before picking up the phone. See more frequently asked questions here.
Compare injury lawyers' success fees
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For a clear illustration of how much of a difference your chosen injury lawyer could make to the amount of compensation you keep, get a comparison quote.
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