More than 1,000 hospital patients across the Midlands have been recalled for blood tests - four months after a health care worker was found to have HIV and Hepatitis B.
The case is believed to be unique in this country and letters have gone out urging patients who came into contact with the employee during a six-year period to have a blood test. The 1,161 patients in the recall were treated at either the Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham; the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch; Kidderminster Hospital or Evesham Community Hospital.
In addition, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust said it would recall 24 patients who came into contact with him while he worked on the South Coast.
Midland public health officials yesterday said the problem was discovered in July and they had since been going through thousands of medical records to identify those potentially at risk before sending out the recall letters.
A spokeswoman for NHS West Midlands said the patients had been asked to call a hotline and attend clinics to be tested.
"We became aware of this problem in July this year and have subsequently acted as quickly as possible," she said.
"We are dealing with a highly unusual, if not unique, set of circumstances affecting several hospitals.
"We sought advice from the expert advisory panel and were advised that a patient look-back exercise was necessary.
"At the same time as we were seeking this advice, and as soon as it was realised that patients were potentially at
risk, a rigorous review was undertaken of the thousands of medical notes of cases which involved this healthcare worker."
She said it was important for patients who had not come into contact with the health worker not to panic.
"Only patients who have received a letter have been deemed to be at risk. Those who have not and may have concerns should contact NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
"All patients who have received the letter should use the special helpline given in that letter.
"This will provide them with further advice and support. In addition, all patients who received the letter were also sent fact sheets on both HIV and Hep B containing all the facts on these viruses."
The worker, who West Midlands officials referred to as a healthcare worker and who is not being identified, had no symptoms and was unaware of the condition until it was picked up by "a routine occupational health assessment".
Dr Iain Blair, consultant in communicable disease for the Health Protection Agency in Hampshire, which covers the Southampton hospital where the worker was employed, said: "The reason this was discovered was because he became unwell and he was re-tested.
"That is when they realised he had Hepatitis B and HIV."