Managing Director, Sharpsmart Ltd
Secure reusable containers for the disposal of needles, blades and other sharp objects from NHS settings is supporting staff and patient safety and offering health chiefs a sustainable alternative to disposable single-use containers.
Needlestick injuries (NSI) remain a major risk for healthcare workers due to the number of sharps used and injections delivered on a daily basis. Eliminating these not only lies in the correct use of the sharp, but also in the correct handling and disposal.
Neil Robinson, Managing Director of Sharpsmart Ltd, has worked extensively with the NHS in the disposal of sharps such as needles and blades, says five key areas for an effective partnership are: safety, sustainability, efficiency, compliance and education.
An important development in recent years has been the introduction of reusable sharps containers, which reduces the manufacturing and subsequent incineration of single use plastics, providing healthcare facilities with significant carbon reductions.
The safety engineered device is designed to eliminate needlestick injuries, Robinson adds: “The containers provide the NHS increased safety through the reduction of NSI’s and the inherent sustainability benefits in the reduction of single-use plastics.”
Sharpsmart Ltd partners with NHS acute trusts to provide support in waste management and the reusable sharps containers are an integral part of this service. Robinson believes there are several elements the NHS should look for in a relationship with a waste disposal partner, particularly resilience.
“Such a partner should have financial backing and be continually investing in innovation. They should also consult with the NHS to develop a service that aligns with the ever-changing requirements,” he adds. Together, the NHS and service provider should develop key performance indicators that align with the NHS’ strategies and objectives.
NHS route to net zero
Within hospitals, alongside the safety of staff and patients, sustainability is now a core focus. Robinson says: “Sustainability has become a focal point with the development of the NHS route to net zero strategy. Part of having this reusable product is enabling compliant segregation to ensure waste is disposed of and treated both compliantly and via the most sustainable outlet.
Improving efficiency in space and labour in terms of how staff manage and move waste without regulatory and personal risk is also important. Meanwhile, education underpins the ongoing development of staff in safe, sustainable and compliant waste disposal.
Sustainability has become a focal point with the development of the NHS route to net zero strategy.
Four walls approach
The company works externally and internally within hospitals, adopting an “inside the four walls approach”, embedding itself within an NHS facility, engaging with all departments to ensure collaboration at each level to train personnel, conduct audits and support in the five key areas of need: safety, sustainability, efficiency, compliance and education.
That enables it to impact and shape the nature of the waste management process from the start of the partnership.
Liaison with healthcare decision-makers helps continuously evaluate and evolve the KPIs as the contract progresses.
Monthly audits and quarterly KPI reviews are transferred into management information reports to evaluate areas such as CO2 reduction, waste hierarchy benchmarking and financial performance. The inherent quarterly business reviews will validate “inherent value rather than cost”, as well as engrain continual improvement through horizon watching for innovations, strategic improvements and any forthcoming regulatory changes.
Sharpsmart Ltd operates in 49 trusts, covering 120 hospitals, with processing facilities in the North East, Yorkshire, Midlands and South East. Throughout COVID, it collaborated closely with the NHS, investing in staff, vehicles, facilities and processing equipment, to ensure the changing needs and volumes of existing clients were met. Contingencies and additional processing volumes were incorporated to ensure continuity to service for NHS customers, including the expansion of its sharps disposal to support vaccination programmes.
“We invested when others were cutting back, we did not leave our customers with waste on site, and we adjusted the service as volumes increased,” says Robinson.