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COVID-19: inability to obtain test forces nurses to take time off work

Staff with symptomatic children have to self-isolate, which puts strain on colleagues
COVID-19 testing swabs

Staff with symptomatic children have to self-isolate, which puts strain on colleagues

Many nurses and healthcare staff say they are struggling to obtain COVID-19 tests, which is leading them to take time off work and self-isolate.

Labour MP for Stockport Navendu Mishra told a House of Commons debate on coronavirus that he was contacted by an NHS nurse who was unable to obtain a test for her symptomatic seven-year-old child.

He added: On Friday, I visited the new Brinnington test centre in my constituency.

It was very quiet, yet it seems to have been unable to offer a test to a

Staff with symptomatic children have to self-isolate, which puts strain on colleagues

Picture: iStock

Many nurses and healthcare staff say they are struggling to obtain COVID-19 tests, which is leading them to take time off work and self-isolate.

Labour MP for Stockport Navendu Mishra told a House of Commons debate on coronavirus that he was contacted by an NHS nurse who was unable to obtain a test for her symptomatic seven-year-old child.

He added: ‘On Friday, I visited the new Brinnington test centre in my constituency.

‘It was very quiet, yet it seems to have been unable to offer a test to a nurse, who, it seems, will now need to take time off work.’

Nurse airs his frustration on Twitter 

Community mental health nurse and chair of the RCN mental health forum, Ed Freshwater, tweeted that he would have to make a 14-hour round trip to obtain a test for his child.

And a regional nursing director told Nursing Standard anonymously that ‘a small but growing number of staff across my region [are] unable to obtain tests.

‘One hospital has sourced private tests at £100 each to expedite the testing and help staff return to work.’

NHS trusts ‘working in the dark’ when it comes to COVID-19 testing

The claims come after NHS Providers, which represents NHS trust leaders, warned that a lack of testing is contributing to staff absences across the NHS.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said testing is an issue for staff and their live-in family members.

‘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,’ he said.

Mr Hopson added that trusts need more information so they can determine if they should create or re-establish their own testing facilities.

Staff and patients being ‘put at unnecessary risk’

RCN director for England Mike Adams said it should be a priority for nursing staff to have access to COVID-19 tests when required.

‘This is crucial for staffing levels needed for patient safety, particularly with the existing workforce shortage,’ he added.

Mr Adams said it was unacceptable for nursing staff to have to travel miles to be tested.

‘Without access to proper testing, and an efficient process that ensures results are turned around quickly, nursing staff, as well as those they care for, will be put at unnecessary risk.’

Government responds to COVID-19 test complaints

The Department of Health and Social Care said testing capacity has been targeted at the hardest-hit areas following a rise in demand.

During the House of Commons coronavirus debate, health secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged there were ‘operational challenges’ in the testing system and that it could be a ‘a matter of weeks’ before the problems are resolved.


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