Doctors catch Covid after distancing rules 'ignored' at Surrey function

Haroon Siddique
·3-min read

An NHS trust is investigating and police have warned its staff about their conduct after two junior doctors contracted coronavirus after a function with 20 other colleagues where rules to prevent the spread of Covid 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.

Surrey police said in a statement that the staff attended an event in Guildford on 2 October. “We have carefully reviewed the evidence available to us in relation to the individuals concerned and it was clear that efforts were made to socialise within the rule of six but there were some breaches of legislation relating to the not wearing of face masks when moving around the within the venue,” the force said.

“Surrey police was notified retrospectively and, based on the evidence, the proportionate response has been to warn the individuals in relation to their conduct. This is a difficult time for all, but there is an expectation that those who work to protect others do not put themselves or others at risk.”

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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.

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The Health Service journal, which first published the story, reported that an email to staff sent by the trust’s chief executive, Louise Stead, before the individuals returned 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 that 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.

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