More than 12,000 NHS staff in Herts tested for Covid-19 antibodies

The data was presented to the board of the Herts Valleys CCG

Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 1:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 1:38 pm

More than 12,000 NHS staff across Hertfordshire have been tested to see if they have had Covid-19 – with results suggesting that one-in-five have had the virus.

The data – presented to the board of the Herts Valleys CCG on Thursday (July 24) - shows that by 1 July, 12,268 staff had been tested for antibodies.

And of those that had been tested 2,424 – or 19.75 per cent – had tested positive.

More than 12,000 NHS staff in Herts tested for Covid-19 antibodies

The data – which is a snapshot of testing, which was scheduled to continue until July 10 – also suggests that infection rates vary between trusts.

At West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust – which operates Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals – 34 per cent of the 2,790 staff tested were found to be positive for the Covid-19 antibody.

Meanwhile at Hertfordshire Comunity Trust – which provides services in clinics, schools and community hospitals – eight per cent of the 1,362 staff tested were positive.

At the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust – which operates the Lister, Hertford County and the QEII hospitals – 15 per cent of the 4,498 staff tested were positive.

Nineteen per cent of the 537 staff tested at the Central London Community Healthcare Trust were found to have the antibodies.

And the same proportion – 19 per cent – of the 3,081 staff at the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust were also positive.

A spokesperson for the NHS in Hertfordshire stressed that it was not unusual for antibody rates to vary between trusts – pointing to the different facilities they offered and conditions they treated.

She said: “Acute hospital trusts across the East of England region have seen different rates of anti-body prevalence of between 20 – 40 per cent – so the Hertfordshire area is not unusual in its prevalence of the virus.

“We can’t compare the other local Hertfordshire NHS Trusts with each other because these trusts do not provide facilities for critically ill patients or manage the same types of patients as the acute trusts.

“Therefore, their staff would have had different rates of contact with the virus than the acute hospitals.

“In addition. In general those that have experienced symptoms suggestive of a COVID-19 infection are more motivated to get tested which ends up skewing the overall results until they are adjusted to take this into account and these are raw unadjusted figures.”

The voluntary tests on NHS staff are being undertake as part of a national study and they were due to have been completed by July 10 .

At that stage testing was due to have been opened up to opticians and pharmacists, with testing for home care and social care staff to follow.

Although a positive antibody test suggests an individual has had the virus, there is no evidence that this will provide immunity.

And staff at all Hertfordshire trusts are being told that they must continue to socially distance and to take the same measures as before.

A spokesperson for the NHS in Hertfordshire said: “Antibody tests are used to detect antibodies to the COVID-19 virus to see if you have previously had the virus.

“There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have been proven to have had the virus and to have produced antibodies are immune nor does it mean that you cannot pass on the virus to others so a positive result means that individuals will still need to maintain social distancing measures and continue to follow government guidelines.

“The testing of NHS staff was part of a national study to help scientists and the government understand the virus better and currently there are no plans to repeat this testing.”

In addition the data presented to the CCG board also shows that 13 per cent of tests on 933 staff working in primary care in west Hertfordshire tested positive.