NHS Health and Safety for Surgeons (Part 2)

Health and Safety again, don’t say I don’t care about you…

You really should wear eye protection when operating, this is a much flouted rule by my colleagues and one of the few rules that I insist medical students scrubbed in with me adhere to. I don’t really care if you have small earrings in and I can just about tolerate false eyelashes if they are properly attached. What I am not prepared to accept responsibility for is giving you an eyeful of potentially infected blood and causing you harm. When we know a patient has a blood borne virus like Hepatitis C or HIV we are all protected to the maximum and take great care during the procedure but these standards are erroneously relaxed for low risk cases.

Below is a picture of my visor following a laparotomy today, in a low risk patient. I am not normally quite this messy but you get the idea.

Glasses are not adequate eye protection despite what many people believe and you really should wear a visor of some sort. I haven’t always been so proper I have to admit and I only started wearing a mask with a visor when I was pregnant with my first baby as suddenly I was protecting someone else instead of myself. I struggled for the first few times with feeling hot and bothered but I soon got used to it.

Some people like to use their own judgement about whether or not a patient looks high risk or not. This is ridiculous and naive, even the nicest and most demure lady can be married to a man who has a taste for high risk activities.

A lovely colleague of mine has hepatitis C, contracted via a needle stick injury. He is on anti-retro virals and is jaundiced, stressed out and exhausted. He has a nap after lunch every day and cannot operate or even do simple procedures like take blood. He has the added stress of a wife and children to protect from his virus. He is going through a nightmare situation that nobody would wish on their worst enemy.

Public health England estimate (2012 figures) that there are 98,400 people with HIV in the UK with 21,000 of then being unaware of the diagnosis. There are 216,000 people with hepatitis C. It’s not a huge number but why take any chances? You wouldn’t have share body fluids with a stranger in any other situation so why do so at work?


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