Patient caught Hepatitis C at ERI

NHS Lothian say the patient was likely to be infected at the ERI. Picture: Jon Savage

NHS Lothian say the patient was likely to be infected at the ERI. Picture: Jon Savage

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HEALTH bosses have apologised for procedural “failings” after a patient was infected with Hepatitis C at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

The patient had attended the A&E department in July, and is believed to have become infected with the blood-borne virus through cross-contamination.

NHS Lothian has since contacted 34 other patients who were treated in the department at the same time. The risk of them being infected “is deemed to be very low”, according to health chiefs, but they are being tested as a precaution.

Hepatitis C 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.

A dedicated NHS 24 helpline on 08000 28 28 16 has been set up to help answer any questions from the public.

Dr David Farquharson, NHS Lothian medical director, 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 reassure 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.”

NHS Lothian said infection control measures in the Emergency Department have been fully reviewed and extra measures have been implemented.

The importance of hand hygiene and the risks associated with blood-borne viruses are being reinforced to staff across NHS Lothian.

About one per cent of the Scottish population is infected with Hepatitis C.