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Patient-facing health workers were three times more likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic compared with other working age adults in Scotland, a new study has found.
Staff working in “front door” roles, such as those in accident and emergency and ambulance services, were at the “highest risk” of needing hospital treatment after contracting the virus, according to the article in the BMJ.
“Governments across the UK must ensure that health and care staff have the protections they need”
The study is based on Scottish data for 158,445 health workers, 229,905 of their household members, as well as other members of the general population, between 1 March and 6 June.
It found that while risk of hospital admission was low for health workers and the people they lived with overall at less than 0.5%, there were causes for concern when looking at working age comparisons.
Health workers and members of their households accounted for one in six (17%) of all Covid-19 hospital admissions among people aged 18 to 65 within the first few months of the outbreak.
This was in spite of health workers and their households only representing 11% of the working age population.
Meanwhile, staff in patient-facing roles and their households were found to be three and two times more likely respectively to be admitted for Covid-19 compared with other working age adults.
These findings were after adjusting for factors such as age, sex, ethnicity and comorbidities, said the report authors.
The risk of Covid-19-related hospital admission for non-patient facing workers and those they lived with was similar to the risk in the general population.
“We remain fully committed to supporting and protecting them, including by providing them access to testing”
Further analysis showed that among health workers who had been admitted, one in eight were admitted to critical care and 2.5% had died.
Following the findings, researchers said governments, healthcare managers and occupational health specialists “need to consider how best to protect healthcare workers in the event of a resurgent pandemic”.
“This is necessary to protect the healthcare workers and their families, in addition to reducing onward transmission into the community, and to maintain a functioning healthcare system,” they said in the study.
“Our findings from the ‘first wave’ in Scotland show that healthcare workers in patient-facing roles—especially those in ‘front door’ roles—are, along with their households, at particular risk.”
The team of researchers stressed that findings should be used to “inform decisions about the organisation of health services, the use of personal protective equipment, and redeployment” going forwards.
Commenting on the study, Theresa Fyffe, director of Royal College Nursing Scotland, said the findings reflected the risks nurses and colleagues were faced with in responding to the pandemic.
“Governments across the UK must ensure that health and care staff have the protections they need as we see cases of Covid-19 increase,” she added.
Meanwhile, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS staff have performed an incredible job during this unprecedented global pandemic and we remain fully committed to supporting and protecting them, including by providing them access to testing.”