New research published today from Ipsos MORI, on behalf of the European Biosafety Network, reveals that COVID-19 led to an increase of 276,000 (23%) in the number of sharps injuries to healthcare workers in Europe over the last year.

The research found that 98% of respondents blamed the rise in the number of sharps injuries on increased pressure and stress due to COVID-19; 47% of respondents also blamed a lack of safety devices for the increase.  Healthcare workers across Europe, by protecting and caring for their patients during COVID-19, unnecessarily put themselves at increased risk of catching deadly diseases like HIV.

Other key findings of the research include:

  • A disproportionate number of nurses were injured by sharps compared to other healthcare job categories, with 82% of the respondents identifying nurses as affected by the increase in sharps injuries.  Nurses were clearly at the frontline of the pandemic;
  • Doctors experienced the second largest increase in sharps injuries with 54% of respondents identifying them as affected.  This is a high figure compared to the normal distribution of sharps injuries and probably results from more doctors being on the frontline during the pandemic;
  • The increase in sharps injuries occurred mostly in Emergency Departments and Intensive Care. These areas are likely to be where increased pressure and stress due to COVID-19 was most intense;
  • 4 in 10 respondents said an increase in the number of sharps injuries resulted from the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The European Biosafety Network and others believe that sharps injuries will be eliminated and health workers and patients will be protected from deadly diseases by:

  • consistent interpretation and universal implementation of the existing Sharps Directive and Medical Devices Regulation;
  • introducing EU wide surveillance and the development of a permanent observatory to deliver detailed and updated information and data on sharps injuries and other accidents;
  • comprehensive use of safety devices and a new standard on safety mechanisms in medical devices

Ipsos MORI carried out the research in March/April 2021 and surveyed 80 of the largest national hospitals in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland, covering more than 300,000 healthcare workers.