Under the current system, healthcare workers diagnosed with HIV are not allowed to perform most surgical or dental procedures. However, an expert review of evidence gathered since 2005, when the current guidelines were introduced, found there have been no reported transmissions of HIV from healthcare workers.
The review was carried out by the Expert Advisory Group on AIDS, the UK Advisory Panel of Healthcare Workers Infected with Blood-borne Viruses and the Advisory Group on Hepatitis. It concluded that the risk of HIV transmission from a healthcare worker to a patient during “exposure prone” procedures – those where there is a risk that injury to the healthcare worker could result in their blood contaminating a patient, such as operations and injections – is about one in five million.
The consultation is therefore recommending that current guidelines restricting the clinical practice of healthcare workers with HIV are relaxed.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Tony Jewell, said:
“Patient safety is always our top priority. We know, from evidence gathered over several years, that the vast majority of nursing and medical duties do not pose a risk of HIV infection to patients, provided standard infection control measures are taken.
“Even the most invasive procedures, such as open heart surgery, carry a risk of HIV infection to the patient of about one in five million, which is a similar risk to being struck by lightning.
“It is therefore right that we now consider our current guidelines to reflect what the science is telling us about the risk of HIV transmission from healthcare workers with HIV to patients.”
The consultation runs until 23 February.