Sharps Terminator destroys syringe needles immediately after use

14 May 2012

A new device that destroys syringe needles immediately after use, rendering them harmless, has been launched in the UK at the Royal College of Nursing Conference in Harrogate.

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.

It is estimated that around 100,000 needlestick injuries occur in the UK each year, but as many as 60–80% may go unreported, making it impossible to estimate the true extent of the problem. According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), at least 48% of nurses during their working life will have been injured by a needle or sharp that had previously been used on a patient.

Most needlestick injuries occur soon after the needle has been withdrawn from the patient, so by totally eliminating the needle directly after use, the Sharps Terminator removes the immediate risk of a needlestick injury to the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.

The lightweight, portable, battery powered device operates via a single-step process 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 Once the needle is withdrawn from the patient, the healthcare worker simply inserts the needle and holds it for 3 seconds.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. 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.

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. 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.



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