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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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
    +4

    Comment number 305.

    266.Total Mass Retain

    Please don’t misquote me. I said…

    When crossing the road you know the risk of a car going out of control IS ALWAYS PRESENT.

    You’d have to be an idiot to cross the road and not be aware that an approaching car could skid on a wet road e.g. Therefore you have the option to minimise that risk by leaving a greater “safe distance” before crossing.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 304.

    First of all the NHS needs to get it's act together regarding care of patients and basic hygiene. Every week another scandal emerges, yesterdays being Whipps Cross

    Let's get these highly paid trust managers to start earning their wonga and see some real improvements then worry about some of the outdated rules, another year won't hurt anyone.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 303.

    265. I would rather stay sick and take my chances than risk certain death at the hands if a disease ridden AIDS infested NHS worker drone

    Denaris, I think it's safe to say that you're already sick, by making such a comment.

  • Comment number 302.

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

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 301.

    Its amazing how the uninformed & the uneducated react to evidence based decisions Personally if the patient doesn't want treatment from someone that is suitably qualified I guess that's there choice - I wonder how many of you will be inquiring about the viral load of your medical team should you require treatment in A&E - not many I bet!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 300.

    I think the Government is trying to destroy the N.H.S. The risk of catching H.I.V should be non-existent, not "minimal" when receiving treatment. Is the Government hoping that those who can afford it, will now go private & those who don't, can play Russian roulette with their health? It's like scrapping Rabies quarantine rules because they are "out-dated".

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 299.

    Why all the fuss and huge expense just to accommodate 110 staff, or is it to allow more immigrants with HIV into the country to work for the NHS and have their treatment paid for by the tax payer?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 298.

    Sorry - but I would not want any contact with someone who is HIV Positive where there is any risk at all that I might become infected.

    This includes doctors, dentists anf the like where there is a blood risk.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 297.

    We are obliged to inform a dentist if we have HIV. Should work both ways surely?
    The Prof uses the word 'negligible' but what exactly does it mean in this context? I want to know.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 296.

    "You'd better not walk across the road"

    Given the option I would take a route with the fewest Road Crossings, because it's an unnecessary risk.

    That said if my life was in danger I would take any surgeon available.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 295.

    I wonder if all the posters on here who say, 'yes, this is great', would really, truly and honestly allow a surgeon with HIV or AIDS operate on them . . . . . . .or are they going for the 'ratings'. . . . . . . . . Honestly?

    Minimal risk is a long long way from zero risk

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 294.

    Here's an idea - patients can refuse to be treated by staff with HIV, a funny accent or ginger hair. Those of us who aren't irrational/bigots can then get quicker treatment from those same staff!
    Everyone's a winner.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 293.

    Uproar about a minute risk of contracting HIV from a tiny minority.
    The majority of healthworkers face an everyday risk of contracting HIV from patients. Especiallly from patients who are unaware they carry HIV.
    Could - or even WOULD? - a healthworker refuse outright to put themself at risk by treating such patients? eg: a bloodsoaked, aggressive drunk in A&E.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 292.

    Great - another way the NHS can kill us.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 291.

    @270 Alex

    Get a sarcasm detector, maybe?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 290.

    Negligible
    1.insignificant: too small or unimportant to be worth considering

    Again. The words of a medical professional. The chances of it being passed may not be 0 but they're so small it may as well be.

  • Comment number 289.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 288.

    all surgeons till this rule came out cannot work if they have Hep B, Hep C and HIV. But they are exposed to all type of the patients. A surgeons most worry is whether they catch while doing treatment. The rule of treatment is universal precautions of infection control. Every body is considered a potential carrier of disease unless proved.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 287.

    This article reminds me that I have to look for a dentist. I couldn't care less if he has HIV. Even with mandatory testing there is a possibility that one could encounter a health worker with HIV, owing to the frequency of testing and the window period. Of course, if health workers were to wear condoms there would be no problem!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 286.

    If you want to stay healthy, keep clear of the NHS.

 

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