Our Medical Negligence Solicitors Discuss Blood-Borne Viruses In Hospitals
17th October 2013
Recently, reports emerged of two patients developing Hepatitis C after visiting a gynaecologist and obstetrics worker. The NHS employee, who has now retired, had been infected for decades and worked in a Welsh hospital, and the revelation of patient infections has seen around 3,000 people receiving a letter telling them about the danger. Public Health Wales has set up a support service and confidential healthlines to support patients who are concerned about the reports. The infected worker had no idea that they were infected, and patient records from the Caerphilly District Miners’ Hospital and two other Welsh hospitals are currently being closely analysed so any infected patients can be quickly diagnosed and treated.
As a result, medical negligence solicitors understand that people across the UK are concerned about the dangers of blood-borne infections, with many people worried about whether current practices and proposed changes to these practices will put patient health at risk and lead to medical negligence compensation claims.
Current Regulations For Nhs Workers With Blood-Borne Diseases
Currently, NHS workers who have been confirmed to have HIV, hepatitis or other blood-borne diseases are forbidden from undertaking “exposure-prone procedures”, which pose a risk of infection to patients. These are usually procedures that involve open tissue and wounds, as this could potentially pose a risk of infection.
It is worth pointing out that medical negligence solicitors rarely see blood-borne infections caused by infected NHS workers. The risk of infection transmission is very minimal when proper infection control measures are taken, such as when disposable gloves are used and when hygiene standards are met, even when the NHS worker has an undiagnosed blood-borne condition.
But this is cold comfort to anyone who sustains Hepatitis C or HIV after being infected by an NHS worker. Tests are only taken when someone begins employment at the NHS, and it is possible for people to be infected with these diseases for many years without realising that they have a health problem. For instance, the NHS worker in this case had not developed any symptoms at all, as is seen in many Hepatitis C patients. Therefore, there could be multiple NHS workers who are potentially putting patients at risk by suffering from undiagnosed Hepatitis C, and it is up to employees themselves to tell their employers if they become aware that they have the condition.
Making A Clinical Negligence Claim
If it can be shown that an NHS employee was aware that they had a blood-borne virus, and their patients also contracted the virus while being treated by the employee, the patient should be able to make a clinical negligence claim. However, people will be less likely to succeed in a medical negligence compensation claim if the employee was unaware they had the condition at the time of infection.
Balancing the rights of patients and clinicians will never be easy, but medical negligence solicitors admit that there may be an argument for regular testing of NHS employees. Whatever the balance is, patients and doctors will have to ensure that they are aware of the risks of blood-borne viruses during NHS treatment and that they take all steps to protect themselves and other people.