Patient-facing NHS staff are to be tested twice-weekly for Coronavirus

Health unions have been calling for regular staff testing since March. 

Matt Bodell
11 November 2020
COViD Home test

The DIY tests provide results at home within an hour.

Patient-facing NHS staff are to offered twice-weekly home testing for Coronavirus, the Government has confirmed.

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Under new plans doctors, nurses, and other patient-facing NHS workers in England will be provided with DIY home testing kits so they can undergo regular testing.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis set out the plans in a letter addressed to the Health and Social Care Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt earlier this week.

The letter confirms that “all patient-facing NHS staff” whether they have symptoms or not will be tested. The news comes amid fears that asymptomatic NHS workers are unintentionally spreading the virus to patients and colleagues.

It reads; “Following further scientific validation of the lateral flow testing modality last week, and confirmation over the weekend from Test and Trace that they can now supply the NHS with sufficient test kits, I am pleased to confirm asymptomatic testing of all patient-facing NHS staff.

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“The first 34 trusts will deploy this technology this week, benefiting over 250,000 staff, and full rollout should be in place by the end of next week.

“Staff will be asked to test themselves at home twice a week with results available before coming into work.”

The lateral flow swab test will ensure results are available within an hour and do not need to be sent to a lab for processing. However, it is noted that “Lateral flow devices have a lower specificity and sensitivity than PCR tests”.

The letter continues; “Testing twice weekly helps mitigate the sensitivity considerations, and to mitigate the lower specificity all positive results will be retested via PCR.

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“As you know, this builds on the extensive asymptomatic staff testing already occurring in parts of the country with outbreaks – over 70,000 NHS staff have been tested asymptomatically in those areas in recent days.

Health unions have been calling for regular staff testing since March.

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