Hepatitis C alert for 8,000 patients


Hepatitis C alert for 8,000 UK surgical patients

Image caption
Hepatitis C virus

More than 8,000 people who were treated by a healthcare worker diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2008 are being offered blood screening for the infection.

Health officials ordered the move after concluding an ex-patient was likely to have become infected during a surgical procedure carried out by the medic.

Of the 8,383 patients being contacted, 8,031 are in Scotland, with 7,311 of those from Lanarkshire.

There are 336 in England, 11 patients in Wales and five in Northern Ireland.

NHS Lanarkshire said the healthcare worker, who has not been identified, did not return to clinical practice after testing positive in 2008.

Prior to this, the medic worked in hospitals across Lanarkshire but was primarily based at Wishaw General Hospital and the former Law Hospital.

Low risk

The worker also spent time at the William Harvey Hospital in East Kent between January and April 2006.

The healthcare worker was predominantly in England before 1982.

NHS Lanarkshire said it was now working with health boards across the UK to notify former patients who had undergone surgical procedures in which the medic was involved.

It said they would be offered screening for hepatitis but the risk was very low.

Dr Iain Wallace, medical director at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “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.

“We are also putting on additional clinics locally to make it as straightforward and convenient as possible for people to get tested.”

Hepatitis C is a virus which can lead to inflammation of the liver.

In most cases, it does not have any symptoms and so most people do not realise they have it.

If untreated, the infection can cause chronic liver disease and, very rarely, cancer of the liver.

Hepatitis C virus is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, and very rarely through sexual intercourse.

The most common route of transmission in the UK is intravenous drug use. It cannot be transmitted through social contact, kissing or sharing food and drink.