Thousands of patients who were treated by a former NHS healthcare worker with hepatitis C are being urged to get tested for the infection.
More than 8,000 people came into contact with the individual while they were working for various hospitals across Lanarkshire.
It has since emerged that it was ‘probable’ two former patients were infected by the person who immediately stopped working after testing positive for the virus.
NHS Lanarkshire is now working to contact people who may have undergone surgical procedures carried out by the worker between 1982 and 2008, advising them to arrange a blood test.
Out of the 8,383 patients being contacted, 8,031 reside in Scotland, with 7,311 of those from Lanarkshire. A total of 336 patients are in England, 11 in Wales and five in Northern Ireland.
In a statement on NHS Lanarkshire’s website, medical director Dr Iain Wallace said: “We would like to reassure people that the likelihood of patients acquiring the virus from a surgical procedure carried out by the healthcare worker is low.
“We know that some people receiving the letter may be anxious about what this means for them. We have apologised to patients for any concern that may be caused by this situation.
“We are committed to supporting patients and are ensuring they have every opportunity to get information about hepatitis C, the testing process and the situation in general.
“We are also putting on additional clinics locally to make it as straightforward and convenient as possible for people to get tested.”
It is understood that the individual worked primarily at Wishaw General Hospital and the former Law Hospital in Lanarkshire. They also worked at William Harvey Hospital in Kent between January and April 2006.
The BBC reported that at the time the health worker tested positive for hepatitis C in 2008, the UK Advisory Panel for Healthcare Workers Infected with Blood Borne Viruses (UKAP) advised NHS Lanarkshire that a patient recall was not necessary.
But health chiefs decided to take action after learning that a patient who was treated by the individual was treated for hepatitis C last year.
Investigations revealed it was ‘probable’ the patient, and one other, had been infected during a procedure carried out by the worker.
Anyone who is concerned that they may have been affected is advised to call the free helpline on 0800 028 2816.