Health staff and families at more risk of Covid hospital admission, study finds

Researchers examined coronavirus cases among 158,445 health workers in Scotland aged 18 to 65.

Coronavirus ward
Coronavirus ward

Covid-19 hospital admissions for working age adults are particularly high among healthcare staff and their families, a new study has found.

They accounted for a sixth of admissions among those aged 18 to 65.

Although hospital admissions were low in this age group, the research authors said the risk for healthcare workers and their families is higher compared with other working age adults.

Scientists from the University of Glasgow and Public Health Scotland found the risk is higher for those with “front door” roles – such as paramedics and A&E medics.

The new study, published in the BMJ, set out to assess the risk of hospital admission for Covid-19 among healthcare workers and their families.

Researchers examined data on 158,445 health staff across Scotland aged 18 to 65.

Overall, 57% had patient-facing roles.

They also examined information on almost 230,000 household members of these workers.

Of all hospital admissions for Covid-19 in the working age population between March and June, 17.2% involved health workers or their households – or 360 of 2,097 admissions among this age group.

After taking various factors into account, the authors found the risk for non-patient facing healthcare workers was similar to the risk of the general population.

But patient-facing healthcare workers were found to have a three-fold increased risk of hospital admission for Covid-19, compared with non-patient facing colleagues.

The people they lived with also faced a two-fold increased risk.

But the authors stressed the overall risk to working age adults is “low”.

They wrote: “Healthcare workers and their households contributed a sixth of hospital admissions with Covid-19 among working age adults.

“Healthcare workers in patient-facing roles – especially those in ‘front door’ roles – are, along with their households, at higher risk of admission with Covid-19.

“Importantly, those in non-patient facing roles had similar risks to the general population.”

David McAllister, a public health doctor based at the University of Glasgow, said: “Healthcare workers continue to play a vital role in our response to the pandemic, every day.

“It is vital that we understand the risks associated with Covid-19 for them and their families, and not just for their own health, but also so that we can protect and plan for the workforce in the future.

“This work helps us to do that. It highlights that whilst the risk for many healthcare staff is similar to that of the general population, there is higher risk to some staff.

“Knowing this can help us to take action to protect those staff at greatest risk as we work through this pandemic. With other organisations across Scotland, we are working to make sure that we do that.”

Commenting on the report, Helga Pile, at the union Unison, said: “Reducing the numbers of healthcare staff who contract the virus is vital. Continual risk assessments, personal protective equipment and rapid access to testing for staff and their families all play a major part.

“Staff who do become ill need proper sick pay as well as rehab and support to help them recover.

“With hospitals filling up, keeping staff safe and well is key to preventing a spiralling staffing crisis as demand grows over the winter.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman 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.

“We have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to our health and social care staff and have so far delivered more than 4.2 billion PPE items since the pandemic began.

“We’ve also ordered a further 32 billion items to provide a continuous supply to the frontline over the coming months.”

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