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COVID-19: Test shortages threaten NHS staff

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COVID-19 cases are on the rise COVID-19 cases are on the rise

A lack of coronavirus tests for NHS staff is leading to staff absences and services being put at risk, NHS Providers have warned.

According to the organisation, trust leaders from across the country are expressing increasing concern that current testing shortages are starting to impact on NHS service recovery and winter preparations due to staff and their family members being unable to access a test, increasing NHS staff absences. NHS staff are having to self-isolate in the absence of a test for either them or their loved ones, taking NHS staff away from the frontline where they are needed.

‘It’s clear that there are current capacity problems with the testing regime. Trust leaders from Bristol, Leeds and London have all raised concerns over the weekend about the lack of testing availability leading to greater levels of staff absence,’ said Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers.

‘It’s not just access for tests for staff members themselves, it’s also access for their family members as NHS workers have to self-isolate if their family members are unable to confirm if they have COVID-19 or not.’

With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing every day, the NHS is facing renewed pressure on its services while also preparing for winter and continuing to recover other services and planned activity. If staff absences continue to increase due to a lack of testing ability, these pressures will accelerate.

Trust leaders are particularly concerned about the lack of appropriate detailed operational information on the shortages, such as how big they are and how long they will last, that is preventing them from managing this problem effectively.

‘The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests,’ added Mr Hopson.

‘They need to know all this information so that they can plan accordingly. For example, trusts need to know if they should try to create or re-establish their own testing facilities as quickly as possible.’

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