Ban on NHS staff with HIV carrying out ‘risky’ work to be scrapped

Chief medical officer says advances in virus treatment mean rules are now outdated

Rules that ban healthcare workers with HIV from performing certain medical procedures are to be repealed, the UK’s chief medical officer said.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said the rules – which ban doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists with HIV from performing procedures with high risk of exposure – were “outdated”.

She added that advances in monitoring and treating HIV now mean that the chance of being infected with the virus by a healthcare worker was “more remote than being struck by lightning”.

The changes, which health officials said would bring the UK into line with other developed countries – including Sweden, France and New Zealand –will come into effect in April and mark a major policy shift, which reflects the significant progress that has been made in the fight against HIV/Aids in the past three decades.

“Many of the UK’s HIV policies were designed to combat the perceived threat at the height of the HIV concerns in the 1980s and have now been left behind by scientific advances and effective treatments,” Dame Sally said. “It is time we changed these outdated rules which are sometimes counter-productive and limit people’s choices on how to get tested or treated early.”

Improved treatments mean that people with HIV can now live healthy, normal lives, so long as they take daily antiretroviral tablets – which also make the risk of infecting other people extremely low.

Home testing kits for HIV, which have been banned in the UK since 1992, will also become legal from April 2014 and will be regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority. The number of healthcare workers known to be living with HIV is low. Only 110 are believed to be working in the specific areas where bans on certain procedures apply – which include obstetrics and gynaecology, midwifery and dentistry. There have only been four cases worldwide of patients being infected with HIV by a healthcare worker – and none in the past decade. However, for some professionals a positive HIV diagnosis can end careers in areas that require frequent exposure-prone procedures.

Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said that removing the ban would mean more health professionals getting tested and would actually reduce patients’ already minimal risk of infection.

“People can come up with a lot of excuses not to have an HIV test and if your career is on the line, even subconsciously that’s going to be another reason why not to,” she said. “These changes will remove a potential barrier [to testing].

“We don’t think there are a lot of healthcare workers out there with HIV who are not telling people, but we do think that the current rules actually feed into the stigma and create barriers to having a test.”

Around 100,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK, although around a quarter of those do not know they have it, according to projections. More than 6,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2011 and infection rates have been rising steadily over the past decade, with particularly large increases among the gay community in recent years.

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive at sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Advances in medication have transformed what it means to live with HIV, and it’s great to see regulations starting to catch up… Legislation plays a vital role in shaping attitudes. We hope these changes continue to improve public understanding of HIV and support for those living with the virus.”

Suggested Topics
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's pic YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    PHP Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: PHP Develope...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star