Survey: 94% of UK surgeons have encountered a needlestick injury

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94% of practicing UK surgeons have either been personally affected by a needlestick injury or have seen a colleague experience one, increasing their risk of infection, a new survey has found. Just 2% of surgeons said that they had never experienced a needlestick injury in the operating theater.

The findings come from a first of its kind survey of 510 surgeons from across the UK, US, Germany, Australia, Japan and Sweden conducted by SERMO for Mölnlycke, a world-leading medical solutions company. SERMO is the leading global social network for doctors, with 800,000 members from 96 specialties.

The survey looked at key opinions from surgeons relating to infection prevention and the role of high quality gloves in improving patient and clinician safety. It provided a clear demonstration of the importance that surgeons place on the provision of high quality gloves in reducing exposure to blood-borne viruses and improving patient outcomes.

Clinician safety

Needlestick (or sharps) injuries occur when a needle or other sharp instrument accidentally penetrates the skin. One hundred thousand needlestick injuries occur across the NHS each year, with many more going unreported. It has been estimated that needlestick injuries cost each NHS Trust £500,000 every year - an estimated £127m across England.

The SERMO survey found that 93% of UK surgeons think that high quality gloves reduce the chance of exposure to blood-borne viruses 82% found that using high quality gloves affected their sense of being protected in the operating theater. 92% agreed that clinician safety in the operating theater was improved though the use of high quality gloves.

Patient safety

With regard to patient safety, the survey highlighted the vital role of surgical gloves in ensuring patient safety. 90% of UK surgeons agreed that high quality surgical gloves improved patient safety in the operating theater. 89% agreed that high quality gloves can have a positive impact on surgical outcomes.

Tim White, a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at the Chesterfield Royal Hospital said:

There should be no argument or substitute for having high quality surgical gloves which give the upmost protection to the surgeon, the patient, the OR team, which fit comfortably, with maximal tactile sensitivity and durability.”

Commenting on the survey findings, John Timmons, Clinical Staff Nurse and International Medical Director, said:

This ground-breaking survey highlights the value that surgeons across the globe place on high quality equipment. Surgeons clearly recognize that investing in high quality gloves can play a vital role in both ensuring the safety of surgeons and improving outcomes for patients.

Surgical gloves are one of the key factors that prevent infections in the operating room and should not be viewed as a commodity. High quality means fewer glove failures, yet we are increasingly seeing healthcare systems around the world prioritize price over quality.

Each year, millions of surgeons and their teams risk exposure to life threatening blood-borne viruses and it is essential that we recognize the critical role of high quality gloves in offering the first line of protection.”

An estimated 300,000 health care-associated infections take place every year across the NHS, costing an estimated £1 billion annually. The prevalence of healthcare-associated infections in hospitals in England in 2011 was 6.4%, with NICE stating that ‘Each one of these infections means additional use of NHS resources, greater patient discomfort and a decrease in patient safety’.

When asked about glove failure during an operation the vast majority of UK surgeons (77%) responded that it increases the risk of surgical site infections.


[i] A review of sharps injuries and preventative strategies, Journal of Hospital Infection, 2003

[ii] Elmiyeh B, Whitaker IS, James MJ, Chahal CA, Galea A, Alshafi K. Needle-stick injuries in the National Health Service: a culture of silence. J R Soc Med. 2004 Jul;97(7):326-7

[iii]  Needlestick Injury in 2008, Royal College of Nursing, 2008

[iv] NHS statistics, facts and figures. July 2017. There are 254 NHS Trusts in the UK so the estimated cost is calculated to be £127m (£500,000 x 254)



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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