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England's chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said it was time to scrap "outdated rules".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She said: "It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people's choices on how to get tested or treated early for HIV.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


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

    Comment number 465.

    is all we can comment on today?
    BBC seems to be full of lazy wasters these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    Are we not told that prevention is better than cure'?!
    Decisions like this should not be made without public consultation being carried out first. Another fine example of our great 'free' country at work!
    Counter acting this by advising patients if an employee is HIV or not would perhaps help.
    Risk is still risk. These are lives we are talking about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    I reckon it'll actually make things safer. If NHS staff have less chance of damaging their career prospects, perhaps some who otherwise wouldn't have had themselves tested will get tested (or get tested sooner) and start receiving treatment.

    Means there's less chance of a non-diagnosed/non-treated HIV+ surgeon/nurse/midwife etc treating you, which can only be a good thing in my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    You need to go back to school and grow up. HIV is, in fact, very difficult to catch. You need a lot of semen/vaginal fluids/sex secretions or blood from the infected person to enter your blood stream to get infected. Sex on the operating table? I think not"

    How much bodily fluid is transferred when drug addicts get HIV by sharing needles?

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    Does this open the door to anyone with a highly infectious disease being allowed to carry out surgery on people. IIRC, this all started because an American dentist infected a young lady who died with AIDS. Then other discoveries were made.

    A naive backward step.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    449. Steve

    so you cant catch it with blood on blood contact, it has to be sex, that's a relief ..... the point is that they are medical staff performing surgery, one slip, trip or fall, a little accident could be life changing for the person lying there, they caught this disease through their own fault and now they have to pay the price, like a drink driver would be expected too..DEAL WITH IT

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    @261.CharsMum " bigotted, ignorant, uneducated."

    In one sentence you've included the 3 most commonly used words (predominantly by the liberal/left) to describe anyone with an opposing view. Congratulations ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    People with HIV to have unrestricted job opportunities because there is no real risk to others. Maybe it is time to remove the duty to conceal the nature of their illness currently in place across healthcare. For example the special hidden notes in their electronic patient records, giving them medicines anonymously.
    We should treat HIV as a communicable disease like TB & many others

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    In response to scoobie (comment 225) I would say in order for your suggestion to work, every member of staff would be required to identify themselves with a badge and a list of their private medical history on display. It's not necessary. The real issue here is discrimination against HIV+ health professionals who know better than anyone what they are capable of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    Doctors have worked with HIV+ patients for years. The chances of anyone actually getting the virus due to this change are extremely minimal. Plus they have to have an undetectable viral load to operate. It really doesn't get much safer than that. Plus as is Doctors may not be tested out of fear, therefore you could unknowingly be operated on by a doctor with a high viral load - that's worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Do you think that this might be more to do with not having to pay long term sick pay and early retirment on medical grounds? Or not being able to make them redundant when on sick? Get 'em back working, start finding faul with their performance and then sack 'em on grounds of incompetence. Bet you that's the REAL plan. Like someone else has said, MRSA sufferers next .....

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    The National Aids Trust suggests 42% of HIV sufferers are MSM (men having sex with men), by any measure vastly greater than the % of that group in the general community.
    Is it homophobic to suggest that there is a need for greater personal responsibility among that community?

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    @428, NHS staff have the right to as much confidentiality as everyone. High risk (like surgeon with high viral load, teacher with TB) should stay off work. Low risk (surgeon with low viral load, teacher with a cold) can go to work.

    Now there is a risk that all health workers have HIV and everyone who breathes has TB, so perhaps you should avoid all of them all together... good luck with that.

  • Comment number 452.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Yes, why would they care about their patients - they're only doctors, after all. It's not as if they've entered that profession to help people, is it?!
    I wish I could agree with you but sadly a lot of doctors are only interested in their huge salaries, hence we keep hearing of horror stories about patients being neglected and mistreated by so-called health professionals :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    @448. So people that are sexually abused and contract HIV is a irresponsible decision?
    I hope your comment is removed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    After reading a lot of comments about this story, it amazes me how much ignorance, prejudice and hate still exists surrounding people with HIV. You need to go back to school and grow up. HIV is, in fact, very difficult to catch. You need a lot of semen/vaginal fluids/sex secretions or blood from the infected person to enter your blood stream to get infected. Sex on the operating table? I think not

  • Comment number 448.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    As private healthcare encroaches on the NHS, the potential for fraud will increase (CHPI report 2013). As a result, there may be substantially less money available for patient care, result in cutting of corners.

    It is obvious that risk of cross-infection by HIV (and other disease) is minimized by good standards of clinical cleanliness such as sterilization. These standards must be maintained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    It remains to be seen wether anyone will be affected by this. . . . . . . As far as I can see, it will be a good idea until someone IS infected. . . . . Then what?. . . . .Will it be such a great thing when we get a hike in taxes to cover the compo claimants


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