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Scotland leads hepatitis C patient notification exercise

Patients in Scotland and England treated by a former NHS Lanarkshire healthcare worker who tested positive for hep c are being contacted.

Public Health England (PHE) has been working closely with NHS Lanarkshire, NHS England and other agencies in other parts of the UK to notify patients who may have had a surgical procedure carried out by the former healthcare worker between 1982 and 2008.

Advice from Scottish and UK experts is that the risk of the hepatitis C virus having been transmitted to a patient during surgery involving the healthcare worker is low.

8,443 patients, mainly from Lanarkshire, but also from across Scotland and the rest of the UK, are receiving letters this week informing them of the situation and recommending that they arrange an appointment for a blood test. Only patients who have received a letter need to undergo hepatitis C testing. There are 336 patients in total in England who are being contacted.

Dr James Sedgwick, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE 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 will be concerned about what this means for them. Although the risk of infection is low, we are recommending that people take up the offer of a blood test to ensure that anyone who may have the virus can receive the right treatment. The latest treatment for hepatitis C is very effective.

To ensure a consistent and coordinated approach for all patients, PHE and NHS Lanarkshire have been working with partner organisations and agencies including:

  • other Scottish health boards
  • Health Protection Scotland
  • NHS England
  • Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland
  • Public Health Wales
  • UK Advisory Panel for Healthcare Workers Infected with Blood Borne Viruses (UKAP)

Prior to 1982, the healthcare worker worked in England. Hospital trusts where the healthcare worker was employed are being contacted to determine whether records are available to identify patients who underwent surgical procedures performed by the healthcare worker during this period. Any further patients identified in England will be contacted by letter and invited for testing.

Videos and other information about hepatitis C and the public health exercise are available at www.nhslanarkshire.org.uk. More information about hepatitis C is also available from the Hepatitis C Trust.

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