UNISON Scotland's response to Scottish Executive Consultation
AIDS/HIV Infected Health Care Workers:
Guidance on the Management of Infected Health
Care Workers and Patient Notification.
UNISON welcomes the opportunity to respond
to the consultation on the Guidance on the Management of Infected
Health Care Workers and Patient Notification.
- It is good that the guidance stresses that normal health
and safety procedures should be appropriate to ensure there
is no risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS.
- The guidance should stipulate that the NHS and employers
work in partnership with trade unions on the development of
health and safety procedures and model policies where detailed
guidance is required to ensure there is no risk of accidental
contamination from HIV/AIDS and other infections.
- UNISON Scotland welcomes the emphasis on confidentiality
for health care workers. It is vital that the employer protects
employees and respects their right to privacy.
- We believe that trade unions have a clear role in the management
of infected health care workers and patient notification.
We would like to see this role developed so as trade unions
are working in partnership with employers.
- UNISON Scotland notes that there are other infectious diseases
such as Hepatitis B and C that do pose serious health risks
and are transmitted in the same way as HIV/AIDS. As a means
to educate and de-stigmatise myths surrounding HIV/AIDS, we
believe that these diseases should be mentioned in this or
- Given the Joint Future agenda, and the joint working done
between the health service and local government, we believe
that there should be discussions on broadening this guidance
to cover local government and the voluntary sector.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing
150,000 members delivering public services in Local Government,
Health, further and higher education, energy (gas and electricity),
water, transport and the voluntary and community sector. We
represent the majority of the employees of the National Health
Service in Scotland.
This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response
to the consultation document issued by the Scottish Executive
on AIDS/HIV Infected Health Care Workers: Guidance on the Management
of Infected Health Care Workers and Patient Notification.
Health and Safety Procedures
UNISON Scotland believes it is crucial to ensure
that health care workers and patients are adequately protected
from the transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
We welcome the statement in the guidance that normal health
and safety procedures on infection control should be appropriate
to ensure that there is no risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS.
This message should be clearly advocated to
patients, health care workers and the general public to dispel
any fears that may exist. The guidance should advise employers
to work more closely with trade unions and employees on communicating
this message effectively to the general public.
UNISON believes that the guidance should stipulate
that the NHS and employers work in partnership with trade unions
on health and safety procedures. In particular we want to see
the development of health and safety procedures and model policies
where detailed guidance is required to ensure there is no risk
of accidental contamination of patients or health care
workers from HIV/AIDS and other infections. Such guidelines
should help to reassure workers and patients, and should ensure
that best practice is achieved.
The Risks of HIV/AIDS Infection
Whilst UNISON understands the need to have
clear guidelines and procedures for protecting patients against
infection from AIDS/HIV health workers, we believe that it is
worth noting that we know of five health service workers who
have died following contact with AIDS/HIV infected patients.
We are not aware of any reported cases of patients dying following
contact with AIDS/HIV infected health care workers. With this
in mind, it is vital that both patients and health care workers
are protected from the risks of infection.
Right of Health Care Workers to confidentiality
UNISON recognises the ethical and legal duties
placed on all health care workers to protect the health and
safety of their patients. We welcome the emphasis on the right
of health care workers to have their own confidentiality respected
and protected. The indication that employers should use every
effort to avoid disclosure of a worker's identity - including
the use of a media injunction - is welcome. We also agree that
the duty of confidentiality should apply even if the health
worker has already been publicly identified, or has died. The
employer should be sensitive to the confidentiality of its employees
and their families.
The Role of Trade Unions
UNISON Scotland is disappointed that the guidelines
do not include a greater role for trade unions in the management
of HIV/AIDS health workers, in the notification of patients,
and in the general campaign on issues arising from the guidance.
The management of HIV/AIDS risks could operate
effectively with trade unions working in real partnership with
employers. Trade unions should be involved in negotiations on
disclosure and management policies, and in supporting and representing
health workers with HIV/AIDS. We believe the document should
put the onus on the NHS or employer to work with trade unions
for negotiated procedures for disclosure. In addition, trade
unions should be more involved in patient notification, to reassure
and work in partnership with employers on publicity and media
activities that may arise.
Other Infectious diseases
UNISON is concerned that people with HIV/AIDS
are stigmatised and face discrimination in the workplace and
society at large. We also believe that myths on HIV/AIDS still
exist. This guidance could be used to address the issues of
stigma and discrimination, and the myths surrounding HIV/AIDS.
Our members are also concerned about other serious infectious
diseases such as Hepatitis B and C that are transmitted in the
same way as HIV/AIDS. We would like to see these diseases included
in guidance and management programmes. Including other infectious
diseases should go some way to ending the stigma surrounding
UNISON Scotland's members in the health service
and local government are currently preparing for the Joint Future
Agenda where there will be a seamless delivery of health, social
and community care services. Given Joint Future and the shared
working between the health service and local government, we
believe that it would be appropriate to begin discussions on
broadening this guidance to incorporate local government and
the voluntary sector.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835