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Coronavirus: community nurses begin training to carry out home testing

Concern about how district and primary care staff will find the time for extra home visits


Coronavirus, now officially named covid-19. Picture: SPL

District nurses are being trained to test for coronavirus (covid-19) as a way of avoiding unnecessary ambulance use and hospital presentations.

More than 130 people have been tested at home by the London Community Testing Network (LCTN) in the past two weeks. And doctors involved have said district or practice nurses could do the testing.

Concern about workforce capacity and workload pressures 

But Queen's Nursing Institute chief executive Crystal Oldman said while it made sense for people to be tested in their own homes to help contain the spread of the virus, she worries about the extra workload for community nurses.

Dr Oldman said: 'Consideration should be given to employing nurses specifically to undertake this work as the district nursing service is under tremendous pressure to deliver urgent care for their patients every day. 

'General practice nurses, similarly, will have full clinics. This might be a perfect opportunity to suggest experienced and recently retired community nurses might return for a specific role in supporting this screening.'

Ambulance deep-cleans are taking vehicles out of action

The home testing idea came from Northwick Park Hospital infectious diseases expert Laurence John consultant after 25 London ambulances had to be withdrawn from service to be deep cleaned – a process that can take a vehicle out of action for eight hours.

In a BMJ article dated 17 February, the LCTN leads wrote: ‘To achieve scale-up… and to release acute physicians to manage patients requiring secondary care, this week we are starting to work with district and practice nurses to provide community testing.

‘Our experience suggests community testing is an acceptable, efficient method of screening for airborne respiratory high-consequence infectious disease, which is applicable across the UK.'

Trusts involved include North West London University Hospitals NHS Trust, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Guy's and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust.

As of 19 February, a total of 5,216 people have been tested for covid-19, of which 5,207 were confirmed negative and nine positive.

Nurse infections in China

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) has called for information from China on the number of nurses infected with coronavirus.

Information from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 3,000 healthcare workers have been infected with covid-19. 

But ICN chief executive Howard Catton said: ‘We urgently need a breakdown of the staff groups affected to further identify the modes of transmission and improve the safety of nurses and other health professionals.'

Mr Catton added front-line nurses should be made aware of new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for how healthcare staff can reduce their risk.

He expressed concern about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

‘Nurses have the right to be protected in the workplace and we urge all governments to ensure sufficient and appropriate PPE is available whenever it is needed,’ he said. 

More than 70,000 people are confirmed to have the virus worldwide, and almost 2,000 people have died.


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