Patient-facing healthcare staff are at least three times at risk of being hospitalised with Covid-19 than the general population, a new study has suggested.

That is the finding of a Scottish study that also discovered people in the households of healthcare workers were twice as likely to be taken to hospital with the virus.

The research – published last week by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the University of Glasgow and Public Health Scotland – looked at data from 158,445 healthcare workers, around half of which were patient-facing, and 229,905 household members in Scotland.

It found that healthcare workers and their households made up 17.2% of Covid-19 cases admitted to hospital among working age adults overall. Patient-facing roles such as nurses and midwives, and their households, were most at risk.              

Study co-author Dr Anoop Shah, from LSHTM, said the findings have ‘significant implications for not only [healthcare workers’ and their households’] health, but also in continuing to deliver healthcare for the general population’.

The ‘absolute risk’ of healthcare workers being hospitalised was still ‘quite small’, Dr Shah added – ranging from 0.07% in administrative staff to 0.2% in nurses and midwives.

However, among healthcare workers admitted to hospital, one in eight entered critical care and 2.5% died. Among admitted household members, one in five entered critical care and 18 (12.9%) died.

For most patient-facing healthcare workers and their households, the estimated absolute risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation during the first peak of the pandemic was less than 1 in 200. This rose to 1% and above in older men with co-existing diseases who worked in patient-facing roles.

For non-patient facing healthcare workers and their households, the risk was similar to that of the general population.

The paper warned the finding of additional risk to patient-facing healthcare workers and their households needs to be considered ‘when assessing occupational risk’.

Dr David McAllister, from the University of Glasgow, said that the findings can help ‘protect and plan for the workforce in the future’.

He said: ‘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.’

This story first appeared in the Pharmacist's sister publication, Nursing in Practice