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Healthcare staff take part in pioneering Covid-19 study

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More than 2000 Tayside healthcare staff took part in a ground-breaking study looking at the prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies in healthcare workers in Scotland.

MATCH is the first major antibody study of healthcare staff carried out in Scotland and one of the first in the UK.

Led by the University of Dundee, it tested more than 2000 volunteer NHS Tayside staff members for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Samples were taken from more than 15 categories of staff, including doctors, nurses, physios, radiographers, administrative staff and porters.

The researchers detected antibodies in 14.5% of volunteers compared to a 4.5% prevalence in the general Scottish population. This figure is lower than in similar studies carried out in England, which have detected antibody rates of between 20-25% in hospital workers.

Very importantly, it has shown that workers who dealt directly with Covid patients were not significantly more at risk than colleagues in other healthcare settings.

The study lead Professor James Chalmers, who is also a consultant respiratory physician working directly with Covid patients at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, says this shows that PPE and other measures put in place to protect frontline staff are helping to significantly reduce infection rates.

Professor Chalmers said, "It is fantastic that more than 2000 staff volunteered to participate in this research and this comprehensive staff testing programme means we have helped to validate an antibody test that can now be used across NHS Scotland.

“It is no surprise that healthcare workers are more likely to have had Covid-19 than the rest of the population so it is important we understand exactly how best to mitigate potential risks.

Dr David Connell, consultant physician in respiratory medicine and NHS Tayside’s Clinical Lead for Winter Planning, said, “This is a really an important and timely paper on the impact of COVID-19 in healthcare workers in Scotland from Professor James Chalmers and his team. 

“It is great that NHS Tayside staff have engaged with this research to be the first in Scotland to understand the risk of COVID-19 in healthcare workers. 

“As we move into winter, we know that our staffing across NHS Tayside is going to be critical, so recognising the effect of COVID-19 on affected healthcare workers in the first part of the pandemic will allow us to make sure we can plan to look after our staff in winter using the best evidence available.

“We know that PPE works, and this, coupled with focused Winter Planning around staffing, will help keep our essential workforce healthy and helping the people of Tayside.”