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Anxious HIV worker' patients given support

PUBLISHED: 16:30 29 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:48 16 August 2010

ABOUT 12,000 people who received treatment from a HIV positive healthcare worker have been sent letters offering them blood tests. NHS Lewisham, which cares for people from Downham, has set up a telephone helpline for people worried about the incident

ABOUT 12,000 people who received treatment from a HIV positive healthcare worker have been sent letters offering them blood tests.

NHS Lewisham, which cares for people from Downham, has set up a telephone helpline for people worried about the incident after the staff member was suspended following allegations they were infected last year.

The Primary Care Trust (PCT) has confirmed that they also tested positive for hepatitis C and is neither working for them or in any other clinical post.

Consultant in Public Health Medicine for the PCT, Dr Donal O'Sullivan, said: "We are very much aware of how concerned patients will be at this news. It is important to emphasise, however, that any risk to patients is likely to be low.

"There has never been a case of HIV infection in the UK which has occurred because of transmission from a healthcare worker to a patient. The risk of spread of hepatitis C in this way is slightly greater, but is still regarded as low.

"We have identified everybody who is at risk, and will be writing to patients who are at any risk, inviting them to telephone the Patient Advice Line."

The Trust said it had begun a "major look-back" process to identify all patients treated by the healthcare worker.

A statement on its website reads: "The PCT will be contacting all of the patients of the healthcare worker during the period of risk advising them on what to do next.

"The risk of spread of either of these infections from a healthcare worker to a patient is very small.

"Despite this very small risk, the PCT sought advice from a national panel of experts, called the United Kingdom Advisory Panel for Healthcare Workers infected with Blood Borne Viruses. This panel has advised that the PCT should recommend a test for hepatitis C to all patients who have been treated by the healthcare worker during the period when there was any risk to patients.

"In terms of HIV, the risk of transmission to patients is so small that the PCT does not need to offer testing. However, testing will be available for patients should they request it."

The Trust wanted to emphasise that the person involved had never worked at Lewisham Hospital and said there was no evidence that anyone had suffered ill health as a result of the incident. The number to call if you are concerned is 020 3049 1605.

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