Croydon Health Services NHS Trust has achieved the highest rates of HIV testing of any Emergency Department in the country, helping to identify the virus more quickly and ensure swift treatment for those affected.
This follows a change in NHS procedures that added rapid HIV testing to routine blood tests during emergency care, with patients always having the choice to opt out.
It began in May 2020 in Croydon and an unprecedented 38,395 of the borough’s emergency patients have since received the test. This has been achieved through dedication and close teamwork between the Trust’s sexual health and emergency teams.
As a result, the Trust was able to offer more HIV care and support to patients in the first eight months than had been possible in the previous two years combined.
Those being newly diagnosed as HIV-positive in Croydon now need dramatically shorter hospital stays, from an average of 34.9 days down to only 2.4 days after the program was implemented. This is because more are being tested when they are well enough to have routine care, return home quickly, and live long and healthy lives.
Dr Linda Vaccari, the Sexual Health registrar involved in running the program at Croydon University Hospital, said:
“This program is crucial for Croydon’s community, where the prevalence of HIV is three times the national average. Our teams have worked so hard on this and it’s been worth every moment.
“Giving the test to emergency patients is a great way to reach thousands more people, including those who might not perceive themselves to be at risk or might not get tested routinely otherwise. HIV can also cause symptoms that can be mistaken for other health issues, so we can detect that quickly when they arrive and provide patients with the best treatment.
“We have powerful new medications to treat HIV and its complications, and also to stop the transmission of the infection in the community. Early diagnosis and treatment makes a huge difference to our patients and their loved ones.
“While this HIV screening is offered alongside emergency care, those who wish to get themselves tested on a routine basis can also visit our Sexual Health clinic or you can request a free one to be sent to your home . You don’t need symptoms to request it, and it’s always better to know."
The teams findings were celebrated with an award on 21 April 2021 at the British HIV Association’s National Conference. Across clinical literature, the Trust is consistently shown to lead the country on the rate of HIV testing in emergency care.