Routine testing for HIV, hepatitis B and C

From April 4, 2022, all patients over the age of 16 years who visit a London emergency department and require a blood test will be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C. We already screen for several infections or conditions when we take your blood, and these additional checks are now part of our routine screening programme at the Royal Free Hospital and Barnet Hospital.

This is in line with guidance from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Public Health England and NHS England and is part of the government’s commitment to reducing HIV transmission to zero by 2030.

If you do not wish to be screened for these conditions, please let a member of staff know. This will not affect the care you receive from us.

Why is it important to be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C in this way?

Early diagnosis of blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and C means people can access the treatment they need sooner and expect to live long and healthy lives. Many people living with HIV do not know they have the virus as it can take years for symptoms to develop. By testing in this way, treatment can be given sooner and prevent the virus from being passed on. What does the testing involve? To test for HIV, hepatitis B and C, an additional blood sample will be taken alongside any other blood tests. If you are not having blood tests in the emergency department, you will not be offered these tests.

How will I find out the results of the tests?

The results of your virus screening blood tests usually take two to three days to be processed, meaning that you will not receive these results on the day that you attend the emergency department. If your test results are negative for HIV, hepatitis B and C, you will not be informed of the results. If any of your results are positive, you will be contacted by either telephone or post and asked to attend an appointment at the Royal Free Hospital with the relevant specialist service, either hepatology or HIV medicine. Further information and support will be available when you attend the follow up appointment.

What if I am unsure about being tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C?

If you decide you do not want any or either of these tests, please speak to a staff member and we will make sure we cancel your HIV and/or hepatitis B and C test. Declining to have these tests will not have any impact on your care. What happens if my test results can’t be processed? If any of your tests cannot be processed, you may be asked to attend a clinic appointment at the Royal Free Hospital for additional testing. You may also be asked to contact your GP. Please do not attend the emergency department for a repeat blood test.