Ban lifted for NHS staff with HIV

 

England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, says the risk to patients is "negligible"

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The government is to lift a ban that stops healthcare staff with HIV performing certain medical procedures.

Healthcare staff in England, Wales and Scotland having HIV treatment will be able to take part in all tasks, including surgery and dentistry.

England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".

Self-testing kits for HIV will also be legalised from April 2014, with the aim of improving early diagnosis.

Prof Davies said many of the UK's HIV policies were designed in the 1980s and had been left behind by scientific advances and effective treatments.

'Simpler system'

She told the BBC that patients controlling their infection with medication were not a danger: "The risk is negligible and I would accept that for myself, for my family and I think it's right."

She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.

Case Study

Allan Reid had to give up dental practice after being diagnosed as HIV positive in 2008.

It ended his 17 years in the profession and he says it led to his house being repossessed.

"I was aware at that time that there was effective treatment that would make the risk of infection non-existent.

"So of course you do feel resentful that the policy has not caught up with the science and you've had to give up your chosen career."

He said he hoped that himself and other healthcare workers will be allowed to return to their careers.

"What we need is a simpler system that continues to protect the public through encouraging people to get tested for HIV as early as possible and that does not hold back some of our best healthcare workers because of a risk that is more remote than being struck by lightning."

Around the world, there have been four cases of health workers infecting patients, none of which was in the UK.

Under current guidelines healthcare staff with HIV must not carry out "exposure prone procedures" - where the worker's blood could contaminate the patient's open tissues.

These procedures include those where the worker's gloved hands may be in contact with sharp instruments, needle tips or sharp pieces of the patient's bone or teeth, according to the UK advisory panel for healthcare workers infected with bloodborne viruses.

Under the new system, healthcare workers with HIV will be allowed to undertake all procedures if they are on effective combination anti-retroviral drug therapy.

They must also have an undetectable viral load of HIV in their body, and must be regularly monitored.

Start Quote

Advances in medication have transformed what it means to live with HIV, and it's great to see regulations starting to catch up”

End Quote Sir Nick Partridge Terrence Higgins Trust

Public Health England will set up a confidential register holding data on infected workers.

About 110 staff currently working in the NHS, including doctors and midwives, are covered by the current regulations, Prof Davies added.

The change applies in England, Wales and Scotland, but does not yet apply in Northern Ireland, which will make an announcement at a later date.

Stigma

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, welcomed the new policy for being "based on up-to-date scientific evidence and not on fear, stigma or outdated information".

Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Advances in medication have transformed what it means to live with HIV, and it's great to see regulations starting to catch up."

About 100,000 people in the UK are living with HIV, although experts say a quarter of those who are infected do not know they have it.

In 2011, there were around 6,000 new diagnoses of HIV in the UK.

 

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  • rate this
    -25

    Comment number 45.

    This is what those who voted Tory wanted isn't it?

    Why else would you vote for the Tories if not for cutting corners to save a few quid, ad to hell with consequences......??????

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    A couple of years ago, one of my ex-tutors took me through some computer models he was working on trying to mimic the HIV virus and people who didn't have the receptor gene. (and therefore couldn't catch HIV/AIDS). The whole day was fantastic and I now realise, I like most people, was completely ignorant about HIV and AIDS. Better educated people should lead to more understanding people.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 43.

    Nice, another confidence in the NHS builder. Wish I could be as sure about everything as these Government professors.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 42.

    #21 Nutgone
    ------------------------
    As long as the Surgeon/Dentist doesn't expect me to join in I don't care what they do in their private life.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 41.

    The Tories: quite happy to give you AIDS as long as there is money in it.

  • rate this
    +79

    Comment number 40.

    I do not have enough medical knowledge to know if this is a good decision or not.

    I just hope this was done on purely scientific grounds and not for reasons of political correctness. It is vital that the health of patients is always put first regardless of how unpopular that may be with pressure groups.

    If the chances of cross infection really are minimal then I suppose that is fair enough.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    I thought this government were all about keeping hospitals clean and preventing infections!

    Seems the price we must pay to bow down to a few liberals is that our health is put at risk.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 37.

    Just one more reason not to use the NHS.

    3 hours waiting in A&E, 5 year waiting lists for surgery and now staff with AIDS. Yeah, i'll just go private thanks. It might cost me an arm and a leg but at least i'll get prompt treatment by staff guaranteed not to have AIDS

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 35.

    There are some very daft comments on here. The viral load in people on HAART is so low that it reduces the transmission risk to negligible - that's why the CMO has taken this wise action. You're far more likely to have another kind of medical mishap so let's focus on getting rid of them instead since they are perpetrated by all sorts of healthcare staff, some of them not even homosexual!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    27.caroline
    Completely agree. a lot of people carry staph A anyway yet blame hospitals. Think I'd rather be treated than wait for another nurse/doctor. Everything we do has a risk but we can't all live in bubble wrapped caves. We have more chance of dying in car crash yet we still get into our cars everyday.

  • rate this
    +38

    Comment number 33.

    Sounds fair enough. If the risk is infinitessimal, there seems no reason to deprive these people of their living, and the NHS of their services.

    If this was being done for pc reasons, I'd oppose it, and if the checks are insufficient, and patients and co-workers are put at risk, that's a different matter.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 32.

    I feel sorry for those who have contracted HIV but even a small risk of spreading this life shattering illness to patients is not acceptable. I know the decision was well meaning but it is not correct from a medical standpoint.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 31.

    Redknag: please bear in mind that people who become infected don't deliberately choose it to happen - perhaps they made a bad decision, or maybe the virus was passed on when they were born. No-one wants to be hiv-positive, but the advances in medication are amazing, and the risks of the virus being passed on through surgery are practically zero. I would be far more concerned about MRSA!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 30.

    Risk of infection is very low, they claim. However My risk of it is zero. Why should I be forced into risk at all for the careers of a few?

  • rate this
    +34

    Comment number 29.

    Not the only outdated rule. I looked into giving blood a couple of years ago. It turned out that a man who has had protected oral sex with another man can never give blood, whilst a man who has had unprotected sex with a woman who definitely has HIV just has to wait 12 months before giving blood. Not sure if it's changed in the last 2 years but that was ridiculous.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    No way should this ban be lifted - any risk to patients at all is too much and could lead to the spread of HIV. Similarly, people known to have HIV should not become blood donors. .

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 27.

    Totally appropriate decision. As a worker in the NHS I am proud this has been decided.
    Few of you have realised that medical staff put themselves at risk each day treating patients, sometimes seeing up to 50patients a day.
    And isk is everywhere. People cross roads and don't get stressed.Your biggest chance of getting MRSA is on a bus/lift.
    Time to stop getting knickers in twist about everything.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 26.

    Here we go....just wait for the stream of uninformed Daily Mail readers who still believe that you can get AIDS from touching a door handle.

 

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