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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


HIV, hepatitis tests for some UK health workers

Last Updated: 2003-01-02 10:00:03 -0400 (Reuters Health)

LONDON (Reuters Health) -- Doctors, nurses and other health workers wanting
jobs in Britain's National Health Service (NHS) will be required to test
negative for HIV and hepatitis B and C before taking up certain posts,
under new measures put forward by the government.

All new NHS staff whose work involves "exposure-prone procedures" will have
to be tested for the blood-borne viruses, the Department of Health said in
a draft document released on Thursday.

These procedures--where an injury to the worker could expose a patient to
their blood--mainly happen in surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology,
dentistry and midwifery.

The government document defines them as procedures where the worker's
gloved hands might be in contact with sharp instruments, needle tips or
body parts like bone or teeth inside a body cavity or wound where the hands
or fingertips are not always completely visible.


They do not include procedures such as taking blood, giving injections or

The new rules toughen existing codes of practice that require health
workers to get tested for diseases like HIV if they think they might have
been exposed to infection.

"These new measures, based on expert advice, are designed to improve
protection for patients still further by extending existing health checks,"
said Pat Troop, deputy chief medical officer.

The new rules were not intended to prevent people with HIV or hepatitis B
or C from working in the NHS, the government said, "because most health
care procedures do not pose a risk of transmitting these infections to
patients or colleagues."

New health care workers are defined as those newly recruited to the NHS or
working in the NHS for the first time, including students and visiting
surgical teams from overseas.


The draft guidance is based on advice from an expert group set up in 2001.
The NHS, professional groups and patient organisations have until April 30
to comment. A Department of Health spokesman said there was no specific
timeframe for implementing the new rules, but that it would probably be in
the second half of 2003.

There have only been two cases worldwide of HIV transmission from health
care workers to patients, neither of them in the UK, the department said.

Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited.