At least two patients have been infected with hepatitis C as the NHS urge more than 8,000 at-risk patients to get tested following the NHS surgeon”s virus diagnosis.
NHS trusts are urgently warning the 8,383 at-risk patients to get blood tests after two former patients were “probably infected” during surgical treatment.
Lanarkshire health trust fear that thousands of patients may have had surgical treatment by former NHS worker between 1982 and 2008.
The worker tested positive in 2008 for hepatitis and immediately ceased clinical practice.
At the time the UK Advisory Panel advised the trust to not tell patients at-risk, after it was deemend “not necessary”.
NHS Lanarkshire said that “based on the evidence available at that time, the UK Advisory Panel advised that a patient notification exercise was not indicated”.
But, health officials have now ordered the move after finding it was “probably” that two former patients had been infected during a procedure carried out by the medic.
Hepatitis C can be contracted through contact with the blood of an infected person as well as sexual contact and intravenous drug use.
Most people with hepatitis C show no symptoms for years, meaning those infected may still be unaware.
However, if left untreated it can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver.
Dr Iain Wallace, the medical director of NHS Lanarkshire, said: “We would like to reassure people that the likelihood of patients acquiring the virus from a surgical procedure carried out by the healthcare worker is low.
“We know that some people receiving the letter may be anxious about what this means for them. We have apologised to patients for any concern that may be caused by this situation.
“We are committed to supporting patients and are ensuring they have every opportunity to get information about hepatitis C, the testing process and the situation in general.”
Prof David Goldberg, a consultant in public health medicine, added: “Although the risk of infection is low, we are recommending that people take up the offer of a blood test to ensure anyone who does have the virus can receive the right treatment. Treatment for hepatitis C is highly effective.”
While hundreds of patients are being contacted in England, 7,311 are from Lanarkshire north of the border.
The infected NHS employee worked in hospitals across the Scottish region during the period, as well as a brief period in Kent.
Around 215,000 people in the UK have the hepatitis virus, which can be treated with a combination of medicines that stop it accumulating in the body.
A freephone helpline has been set up for members of the public in Scotland who have questions or concerns on 0800 028 2816.