Secrecy attacked after doctor with Aids dies

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT was under pressure last night to issue guidelines on how to deal with healthcare workers infected with HIV after it was disclosed that a doctor with Aids had died in October.

The case is the second in a week involving an HIV-positive doctor. However, senior public health officials in Mid-Glamorgan defended their decision not to tell patients about the death of Peter Clayton, 28, who had worked in several hospitals.

The authority rushed out a statement yesterday after a local newspaper received an anonymous letter about Dr Clayton. Four emergency helplines have been set up, and counselling and HIV tests are available. More than 150 calls had been received from patients by late yesterday afternoon.

Dr Clayton, who was married, became ill during a 12-month attachment in Bermuda between August 1990 and July 1991. On returning to south Wales he continued GP training at the Oldcastle Surgery, Bridgend, until November 1991 when he stopped working. He had also worked at East Glamorgan Hospital, the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, and the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff. It is not known when or how he became infected. The health authority had been unaware of his illness until his death. His wife, Sally, a psychiatric nurse, is said to be well.

Dr Bill Smith, director of public health for the Mid-Glamorgan health authority, said that medical advice had convinced him that it was not in the public interest to tell patients about Dr Clayton's death. The likelihood of transmitting HIV in his work was 'virtually nil'. A health authority spokesman said that Dr Clayton had treated 'hundreds rather than thousands' of patients.

But David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, said that it was wrong for health authorities to decide how to act without advice from the Department of Health. Philip Hunt, director of the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts, said that patients who had undergone 'invasive' surgery must be told if the doctor was HIV positive.

The Department of Health said that each case had to be considered individually, and it was satisfied for health authorities to decide about informing patients.

This week the Medway health authority released details of Terence Shuttleworth, a gynaecologist, who is HIV positive. Mr Shuttleworth treated about 17,000 patients over 10 years and carried out 6,000 operations. More than 9,000 people have telephoned a helpline.

The Mid-Glamorgan helpline numbers are: 0443-207559/207560/207550 and 217005.