One in three hospital staff in west Herts have had Covid-19, tests suggest

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NHS staff across the county are being offered the Covid-19 antibody test

One in every three members of NHS hospital staff in west Hertfordshire could have had Covid-19, according to the initial results of antibody testing.

NHS staff across the county are being offered the Covid-19 antibody test, as part of a national research project that’s designed to show how the virus has spread in communities.

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And early indications show that around 33 per cent of staff at the West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust may have had the virus.

Difference between the testsDifference between the tests
Difference between the tests

The data – based on test results of 2790 hospital staff – was reported to a meeting of the West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust’s board on Thursday (July 2).

And it’s the strongest indication yet of the possible scale of Covid-19 infection within the hospitals.

With no national data yet available, it is not known whether the results at the Trust will be higher or lower than other areas.

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But at the meeting chief people officer Paul Da Gama told the board this level was “probably a higher level than we had expected”.

Overall the Trust – which operates Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals – employs around 5000 staff.

And the antibody tests – allocated on a first-come, first-served basis – are continuing.

Those staff who have tested positive – and who may or may not have some immunity – have been told by hospital bosses to continue to take the same precautions.

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And they must continue to comply with all infection control and social distancing measures regardless of the test outcome.

The national antibody testing programme is designed to show how the virus has spread through different communities nationwide.

NHS workers in hospitals, community health trusts, mental health trusts and the ambulance service are being tested first.

Then, according to the report to the Trust board, the testing programme will be rolled out to GP practice staff over the next few weeks.

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“Antibody tests use blood samples to detect the presence of antibodies that show whether a person has been exposed to COVID 19 in the past and has developed an immune response to the virus,” says the report to the board.

“The results of antibody tests on NHS staff will help the government and scientists to get a better understanding of how the virus has spread and how different areas have been affected.”

Following the meeting a spokesperson for the Trust said it was not yet known how the results compared to other hospitals.

“We haven’t yet been able to compare the COVID-19 positive results among our staff with other hospitals,” she said.

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“Given the high incidence of COVID-19 locally, we would expect this to be reflected in our staff numbers.”

The written report submitted to the Trust board in advance of the meeting – based on the analysis of 1276 blood samples – showed 435 (34 per cent) had had the virus.

But at the meeting, Mr Da Gama said that 2790 staff had now been tested, with around 33 per cent testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies.

Meanwhile , according to the report, the Trust is continuing to offer Covid-19 testing for staff with symptoms and, “is awaiting guidance on requirements to provide testing for asymptomatic staff”.

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