September 12, 2013

Infected health worker sparks UK-wide hep C investigation

Provided by Nursing Times

September, 2013 | By Steve Ford

Around 3,000 patients have been contacted in Wales over the risk they may have been infected with hepatitis C by a retired healthcare worker who worked in obstetrics and gynaecology.

To date, two patients in Wales have been identified as having hepatitis C, which is known to have been transmitted from the healthcare worker. 

In a written statement, the Welsh Government said today that it had it been made aware of a “serious incident” reported by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, involving a retired healthcare worker who has been diagnosed with hepatitis C.

The healthcare worker’s main employment in Wales was between May 1984 and July 2003 at Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital, but also for a short time at the former East Glamorgan Hospital and Wrexham Maelor Hospital. 

During the healthcare worker’s career, time was also spent working in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board is writing to at least 3,000 patients this week and a further 2,000 patients next week, who have been identified as having definitely or possibly received certain procedures from the healthcare worker.

The healthcare worker also worked at other hospitals across the UK prior to working in Wales, including 11 hospitals in England between 1975 and 1983.

Similar “lookback” exercises to contact patients are taking place in parallel across all affected hospitals in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Public Health England said less than 400 women in England have so far been identified as having definitely or possibly had operations conducted by the affected healthcare worker.

People who receive a letter are being offered counselling and advice on what to do next. 

A confidential telephone helpline number has been set up and clinics established to provide testing for those that have received a letter.

The identity of the healthcare worker is not being released due to confidentiality rights, the Welsh Government said. The individual had no symptoms and was unaware of the infection until after they retired.

In a statement, Public Health England medical director Dr Paul Cosford said he wanted to “emphasise that the risk of infection is very small”.

Women who came into contact with the infected individual via an obstetric or gynaecological operation, or while giving birth, were being offered testing “purely as a precaution”, he said.

“Around one in 250 adults in England have chronic hepatitis C infection and it does not automatically lead to health problems. Treatment can help clear the infection in up to 80% cases,” he added.

Since 2007, all staff new to the NHS should be offered a hepatitis C test and anyone performing surgical procedures for the first time should be tested by their employing trust or health board. 


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