NHS Lothian investigates case of hepatitis C

NHS Lothian is currently investigating a case of hepatitis C in a patient who attended the Emergency Department at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in July 2013.

Investigations show that this patient is likely to have become infected through cross-contamination which occurred in the Department.  NHS Lothian has followed up with 34 patients who were treated in the Department at the same time. Their risk of infection is deemed to be very low but as a precaution they are being offered appropriate information, advice and testing. 

Infection control measures in the Emergency Department have been fully reviewed and additional measures have been put in place. The importance of hand hygiene and the risks associated with blood borne viruses are being reinforced with staff across NHS Lothian.

A dedicated NHS 24 helpline (08000 28 28 16) has been set up to help answer any questions the public may have about hepatitis C and the risk of blood-borne virus infection.

Dr David Farquharson, Medical Director, NHS Lothian, said: “We take infection prevention and control extremely seriously and the safety of our patients is our top priority
“Unfortunately on this occasion we have fallen below the high standards which we expect.
“We have spoken to and, apologised to the individual involved, and I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise for the distress this has caused.
“This investigation has identified failings in our processes and these are being urgently addressed.
“I would like to re-assure everyone who has visited our Emergency Department that the risk of being infected is very low. If anyone is at all concerned, I would encourage them to contact the dedicated helpline for more information and advice.”

 Experience in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally indicates that Hepatitis C virus transmission in healthcare settings due to unsatisfactory infection control measures is almost always a one-off rare event.

 Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that can infect and damage the liver.  The virus can be treated with antiviral medicines that stop it from multiplying inside the body and prevent liver damage. Around one per cent of the Scottish population are infected with the virus.  

 Notes to Editors:

More information on hepatitis C can be found on NHS Inform - http://www.nhsinform.co.uk/health-library/articles/h/hepatitis-c/introduction