Euro-MP Stephen Hughes has called for quick EU action to protect healthcare workers from contracting fatal diseases through injuries by used needles.
The European Parliament has called on government ministers across the EU to prioritise a new European directive to protect people from so called "needlestick injuries", through which it is possible to catch serious blood-borne diseases, including hepatitis and HIV.
Over the last six years Mr Hughes has been working with health workers' unions to drive a campaign for European action on the issue.
He said: "The idea that a needle prick could be fatal might raise a few eyebrows, but the danger is very real.
"I have been touched to hear the stories of workers who have experienced these injuries.
"Imagine the anguish that follows an accident with a used needle. The worker and their family can face many months of uncertainty, not knowing if they will acquire a potentially fatal infection or not."
More than one million needlestick injuries are suffered by healthcare workers in Europe each year, most of which are avoidable. They occur when medical staff, such as nurses, doctors, cleaners and laundry workers, are accidentally pricked with a used needle.
European guidelines already exist on how to prevent these injuries, but MEPs believe these rules need legal status to ensure that the risks to workers are minimised. Most injuries can be prevented through appropriate training and working procedures, as well as the use of equipment with needle protection mechanisms.
Today's European Parliament decision will put pressure on ministers to deliver legislation that is currently caught up in negotiations with national governments.
Stephen Hughes added: "For many years Labour MEPs have been pushing for European-wide action to protect healthcare workers. The proposals we voted through today will give people the protection they deserve.”
- Stephen Hughes authored the 2006 European Parliament report that prompted the proposals for an EU directive to prevent needlestick injuries.
- Guidelines between employers and worker representatives were agreed in July last year.
- For more information contact Stephen Hughes on 07770 914526 or Cyndi Beaver on 077641 98400