Over 8000 patients have been contacted by the NHS advising them to have a blood test following reports from Lanarkshire Health Trust that two patients have probably been infected with hepatitis C from a former NHS clinician.
It has been reported that an employee tested positive for the virus in 2008 and ceased clinical practice at that time, however, had been working since 1982 across Lanarkshire. As hepatitis C can be symptom-less for a number of years, the clinician in question could have had the virus without realising it which is why so many former patients are being contacted.
Hepatitis C can be contracted through the blood of an infected person but NHS Lanarkshire has reassured patients that the likelihood of them having contracted it following a surgical procedure is extremely low, around a 1 in 1000 chance. Treatment for the virus is highly effective and patients who receive a letter are being encouraged to undergo the blood test as soon as possible.
Due to stringent safety measures that are put in place and the care taken by members of staff, the risk of contracting a blood-borne infection during a surgical procedure is thankfully very low in this country. It is important, however, that former patients are provided with support and information when problems do come to light such as in this case.
By Gemma Crompton, clinical negligence team