An NHS trust is investigating after two junior doctors contracted coronavirus following a function with 20 other colleagues where social distancing rules were allegedly ignored.
The cases, involving junior doctors from Royal Surrey NHS foundation trust who congregated at a social gathering unconnected to the trust, were declared an outbreak by Public Health England. However, contact tracing concluded there was no risk to patients because personal protective equipment was used at work and the staff swiftly isolated. The staff members in question did not return to work after testing positive.
Health Service Journal (HSJ), which first revealed the story, said police were also investigating the allegations, which reportedly relate to an event in Guildford on 2 October. Surrey police could not be contacted for confirmation.
Dr Mark Evans, a deputy medical director at Royal Surrey, said: “Protecting our patients is our priority and we are committed to ensuring that all of our staff follow government guidance. This incident took place outside of work and has been reported appropriately, and there was no disruption to our services for patients.”
All staff involved are back at work. The trust declined to say whether the positive cases were picked up as a result of routine testing or otherwise.
An email to staff sent by the trust’s chief executive, Louise Stead, before the individuals returned, and seen by HSJ, said: “All of the individuals involved are following the government guidance and are in self-isolation. A full track and trace of any patient contact has taken place and there is no evidence of transmission to patients at this time. Our services continue to run safely, and patients can use these confidently and attend planned appointments and procedures.
“As chief executive I wanted to write to you personally today to reiterate the serious nature of this and the need to follow government guidelines, including the rule of six people at one gathering, when outside of work. This is a stark and serious example of the need to uphold the correct behaviour at all times.”
Earlier this year, an investigation by Hillingdon hospital in north-west London found that an outbreak which shut its A&E unit after 70 staff had to go into quarantine was caused by nurses not wearing face masks or staying 2 metres apart at a training event. One nurse unwittingly infected 16 others who attended.