A healthcare worker at a Worcestershire hospital contracted the Hepatitis C virus after injuring herself on a needle used to take blood from an that was infected with the virus.

In a HSE investigation of the incident at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust it was discovered that she had been unsupervised during the procedure and that the hospital had failed to carry out suitable risk assessments where there was a risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses and had also failed to implement adequate controls or provide training around them.

The Trust pleaded guilty to breaching S.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and r.6 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 for which it was fined a total of £12,500 plus £9,000 costs

The worker seemed to have contracted the virus after reaching for a tissue to further dress the patients wound after it kept bleeding , she caught her wrist on the needle which she had placed on a near work surface as the sharps bin was out of reach due to other equipment blocking the access.

The HSE investigation found the employee was not made aware of the patient’s infection status until after the injury occurred and was not supervised during the procedure. Despite action to counter infection from the injury, she was subsequently diagnosed with symptoms of the virus.

An examination of the Trust’s system for taking blood samples from high-risk patients found failures to carry out suitable risk assessments where there was a risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses.

HSE inspector Jan Willets said:

“For staff regularly taking blood from patients, the risk of infection with the Hepatitis C virus from a contaminated needle is greater than for any other blood-borne virus.

“This infection was entirely preventable. The risks and controls are well known and the Trust should have had an effective safe system of work in place.

“It should have ensured an inexperienced healthcare worker was appropriately supervised, aware of the risks to her health from her work with this patient and the precautions to be taken.