HIV Testing of Health Care Workers in England -- a Flawed Policy
Journal of Health Services Research & Policy 2010 April; 15(Suppl 2): 62-67
A new Department of Health policy in England, published in 2007, recommended changes to the pre-employment health checks performed on health care workers before taking up their employment. The policy proposed that all new health care workers should receive immunization against TB and hepatitis B and should be offered testing for hepatitis C and HIV. It also advanced a new requirement that staff who perform exposure-prone procedures must be tested for TB, hepatitis B and C and HIV and must test negative for these diseases. Essentially mandatory HIV testing has been introduced for a large number of health care workers. The aim of the recommendations is to protect patients from contracting serious communicable diseases from health care professionals. Secondary objectives of the directive are to maintain confidence in the workforce and reduce the burden of patient notification exercises. This essay explores some of the shortcomings of this policy and examines the reasons why this policy will fail to meet its objectives. The justification for this new guidance is questioned and some of the ethical issues are highlighted.
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