A&E staff isolating after ‘Omicron outbreak at Christmas party’

NHS Lanarkshire say a number of staff at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride isolating after testing positive for Covid-19.

A&E staff isolating after ‘Omicron outbreak at Christmas party’ STV News
Omicron: Outbreak among A&E staff linked to Christmas party.

Around 40 A&E workers at a hospital in South Lanarkshire are self-isolating following an outbreak of Omicron linked to their Christmas party.

The order was given to staff at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride after a number of workers tested positive for Covid-19.

A whistleblower told The Scottish Sun newspaper that A&E staff had been advised not to hold a Christmas party last Saturday but decided to go ahead anyway.

Russell Coulthard, NHS Lanarkshire deputy director of acute services, said: “We can confirm that a number of staff have tested positive for Covid-19 and are currently isolating.

“NHS Lanarkshire’s Test and Protect team has carried out contact tracing with a number of staff having been identified as close contacts and are isolating for a 10-day period in line with current national guidance.

“This is adding to existing staffing challenges across health services. We are deploying staff from other areas to ensure our services can deliver effective patient care.

“The emergence of the new Omicron variant in Lanarkshire, which may be three times more transmissible than the Delta variant, is already having a negative impact on many of our health services and this pressure is likely to increase in the coming weeks.

“As a result, we have asked all staff to pay particular attention to staying Covid-19 safe during the Christmas and New Year festive season.”

The party took place just days before NHS Lanarkshire suspended all but “essential” visiting across its hospitals amid the rise in Omicron coronavirus variant cases and pressure on the health service.

The health board said it had been a “very difficult” decision as it understood the positive impact of support from loved ones on patient wellbeing.

Scottish Conservative MSP for Central Scotland Graham Simpson said: “If this is true then it is extremely concerning, particularly if staff were advised not to have a party. We all need to be careful right now.

“Hairmyres hospital cannot afford to lose over 40 staff. It puts extra pressure on colleagues and a strain on services. As the health board say, it is adding to staffing challenges.

“Everyone has to behave safely in the face of Covid but especially those working in the health service.”

Visitors to Hairmyres are now only allowed in to see patients who would be distressed by not seeing a family member.

The move will limit the number of people going into hospitals and reduce the risk of the Omicron variant being passed to patients and staff, the health board said.

On Thursday, Public Health Scotland urged people to defer Christmas parties this year due to the number of Covid-19 outbreaks linked to such events.

The agency said there was particular concern about the number of Omicron cases associated with Christmas gatherings.

The new guidance came just days after health secretary Humza Yousaf said people across Scotland should continue with their Christmas plans but “make them safer”.

Dr Nick Phin, director of Public Health Science and Medical Director, said: “There is much that we still need to learn about Omicron, but early evidence suggests that this new Covid variant is much more transmissible.

“The impact of this transmissibility has been seen in recent weeks, with a number of Omicron outbreaks linked to parties.

“We still need to learn more about the severity of disease caused by Omicron and the effectiveness of vaccines, but there are important things that we can do to help protect ourselves and our families now.Advertisement

“To help minimise the further spread of Covid-19, and Omicron in particular, I would strongly urge people to defer their Christmas parties to another time.

“I appreciate that everyone is keen to celebrate this festive season, particularly after the pressures of the last twenty months, but by postponing some plans we can all do our bit to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”