More than 1,600 women have been contacted after a surgeon was found to have transmitted the liver disease hepatitis C to a patient.

More than 1,600 women have been contacted after a surgeon was found to have transmitted the liver disease hepatitis C to a patient.

The risk of other women who had gynaecological operations during the past six years contracting the disease is said to be "very small", but three other hospitals where the surgeon has worked since 1993 have been ordered to contact his previous patients.

The surgeon, who has not been named, has worked at the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire, since 1997. He is now on sick leave. The patient affected is receiving treatment, although her state of health is not known.

The incident came to light recently after the woman, who was operated on two years ago, returned to the hospital for a routine test. A spokesman for the Pilgrim Hospital said: "[Hepatitis] is transmitted from blood to blood so her doctor traced her medical history and checked the surgeon who carried out the operation.

"We were able to establish that it was him who infected the patient rather than the other way round because the hospital already had a sample of his blood taken prior to the operation. When that was tested it was found he had hepatitis C before he operated on this patient."

Dr Martin Fairman, medical director at the hospital, said yesterday: "Patients are bound to be concerned and worried about this news but we believe the risk of infection to be small.

"We are contacting patients who have had what are known as exposure prone procedures such as hysterectomies or Caesarean deliveries and we are giving them advice and encouraging them to come to a screening blood test."

Another blood sample belonging to the surgeon, which was taken in 1993, before he started work at Torbay District General Hospital, has also been found to be infected with the disease. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "We now know that he had hepatitis C at that time. The investigation is continuing and if necessary we will go back further than 1993."

The surgeon has also worked at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and at the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton. Letters have been sent to patients offering blood tests and advice.

For more information, former patients can call: for Boston, 01205 442064; for Torbay 01803 655655; or for Southampton and Exeter 0845 4647.

* Two hundred pupils and staff have been offered screening at a school in Co Cork in Ireland where nine cases of tuber-culosis have been confirmed.

Dr Margaret O'Sullivan, of the Southern Health Board, said: "This number of cases is unusual, though we have had them in clusters before. We have carried out the screening in line with national guidelines and it has almost been completed."

The exact location of the school has not been revealed but a telephone hotline for concerned parents has been set up. The school has not been closed because tuberculosis is now considered to be fully treatable with modern drugs and early detection. Those diagnosed with the disease were being cared for at a hospital at Mallow, Co Cork.