A health union is calling on the government to ban the use of powdered gloves, which have been linked with latex allergies.
The NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (PASA) stopped buying powdered latex gloves two years ago.
But the Department of Health admitted that some health trusts might still be using the gloves, rather than buying through PASA.
The news comes as a international firm announces it has produced a surgical glove, designed to protect against allergies.
As many as one in 10 NHS workers are thought to be at risk of serious allergic reactions to the latex gloves or equipment they use each day.
Unison say that as many as 100 people a year develop occupational asthma due to latex and they are calling on the NHS to protect their staff.
Unison’s national officer Jon Richards said: “The danger of developing allergies using these gloves is well known and it is also the fastest growing cause of asthma in the workplace.
“In addition severe, even fatal, reactions have been reported from the inappropriate use of latex-containing medical products on sensitised patients.
“The cost per annum for healthcare for a latex sensitive individual can be as high as ?100,000 a year and with around 100 people a year developing occupational asthma due to latex, the cost to the NHS is rising.
“We need to ensure that all ambulance, acute, community and primary care trust workers receive the equipment and the training needed to avoid harm to themselves and latex-sensitive patients.”
This month SSL International PLC announced the launch of its “Biogel Skinsense PI” glove, which will be available first in the US from March.
The glove is made from polysioprene, which fits like latex, but has not been shown to cause allergies.
SSL’s chief executive Brian Buchan said the glove was greatly in demand.
“We are at the forefront of developments in powder-free and synthetic surgical glove technology.
“We know from healthcare professionals that there is demand for a synthetic glove with improved sensitivity and comfort.
“Our new glove gives them just that.
“Over 90% of surgical gloves sold in the US are made of natural rubber latex. However, because of concerns about latex allergies, the synthetic sector is expected to grow, particularly as products such as Biogel Skinsense PI eliminate the performance gap with natural rubber latex.”
Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD