British National Health Service to Test Workers for HIV, Hepatitis B and C
All new National Health Service medical staff in the United Kingdom will be tested for HIV, and people applying for positions in which patients may be at an increased risk of exposure -- including current employees -- will also be tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, according to new draft regulations, BBC News reports (BBC News, 1/2). The Department of Health said in a draft document released yesterday that all new NHS employees who are involved in "exposure-prone procedures" during which "an injury to the worker could expose a patient to their blood" will be tested for bloodborne viruses. Most of these procedures are in the fields of surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, dentistry and midwifery, Reuters reports. However, other health care workers who take blood, give injections or administer stitches will not be required to be tested. A health department spokesperson said there was "no specific timeframe" for instituting the new guidelines but added that it would likely be in late 2003, according to Reuters (Reuters, 1/2). Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pat Troop said, "These new measures, based on expert advice, are designed to improve protection for patients still further by extending existing health checks. The new checks will also help those planning a career in the health service to make informed career choices early on" (BBC News, 1/2). However, Janet Fyle, an adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said, "Unless staff are tested repeatedly it is a pointless exercise. People can become infected at any time. We think testing all new staff is a smokescreen to keep (the Government's) critics quiet." Some observers say that the new guidelines are in response to an increase in recruitment of NHS staff from other countries, particularly those in Africa, where in some areas one in three adults is estimated to be HIV-positive. A spokesperson for the health department said that the new guidelines were not directed at staff from overseas (Laurance, Independent, 1/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.