On 5 December 2019 the European Biosafety Network hosted a Summit at Infarmed in Lisbon to explore the issue of preventing the exposure of healthcare workers to hazardous drugs.

Luca Scarpiello of EPSU said there is a greater need for protections throughout the entire supply chain from production, to delivery and storage, then administration and finally disposal. Jose Luis Cobos, from the Spanish General Council of Nursing outlined what changes have been made over the last few years and demonstrated how Spain could provide a road map for other European national governments. Humberto Miguel, from the Portuguese Institute of Oncology, said there is a need for continuous assessment of equipment devices and to improve areas of preparation still facing dangerous contamination, and his organisation is currently undertaking of the best technology available including CSTDs.Cristina Lacerda of AEOP highlighted the need to improve awareness and to bolster protections for nurses working in cancer units.

Guadalupe Simões said there is an understanding in the scientific community regarding the harm exposure to certain medicines can cause but this information is not being made readily available for healthcare workers. Key stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Health, scientific associations and societies could do more to help tackle the poor understanding around this.

Jose Couto, Secretary of State for Public Administration, opened the session by thanking all of those who attended and presented at the Summit, and emphasised how important these meetings were as they involved the most important and influential voices on the subject area. The importance of supporting the public sector and giving public bodies the strength to implement change was also underscored, as this would better bring about the improvements the healthcare workforce needed.

Moisés Ferreira of the Left Block then spoke about the need to raise awareness amongst lawmakers on the threats posed to workers more generally, including those caused by exposure to hazardous drugs. The need for a greater role for government in research and development and the creation of new technologies which could reduce worker contact with certain drugs is paramount, he concluded.

José Carlos Martins spoke next, thanking those in attendance, especially those from the political sphere. He said the day’s conversations were crucial but that they were only of worth if followed by political action. In turn he urged legislators to take on-board the advice provided today, and remarked that it was unfortunate representatives from all parties were not present. Cross party talks were essential for making progress on the protection of healthcare workers.

José Rocha Nogueira of the Ministry of Health highlighted the need for worker’s health surveillance to track levels of exposure, whilst advocating for improved risk evaluations and more stringent preventive measures. José then concluded and drew the session to an end.