COVID-19: Labour calls for weekly testing of NHS staff

Party says regular coronavirus test for healthcare staff will help clear backlogs on hospital waiting lists

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NHS staff should receive weekly tests for COVID-19 to ensure the treatment waiting list can be safely cleared, the Labour party has said.

Analysis published by the party shows a huge rise in how long patients are having to wait for diagnostic tests.

Nearly one million patients waiting for diagnostic tests

Figures published by NHS England, and shared by Labour, reveal that 840,742 people are waiting for diagnostic tests, and more than half (468,622) have been waiting more than six weeks.

In February, before the pandemic hit, fewer than 3% of people were waiting for six weeks for such tests.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the best way to tackle the backlog was by introducing weekly COVID-19 testing of NHS staff to check if they are asymptomatic.

Estimated 1,600 cancer cases left undiagnosed each month

‘Estimates suggest two million people are waiting for cancer screening, tests or treatment and that 1,600 cases of cancer are currently left undiagnosed every month,’ he said.

‘It’s now urgent ministers bring forward a plan to tackle the backlog in non-COVID-19 care.’

Labour has said it is prepared to bring the matter to a vote in the House of Commons.

Testing of NHS staff for COVID-19 is critical for normal services to increase

Responding to Labour’s calls, RCN director of nursing Susan Masters said testing NHS staff for COVID-19 was critical as discussions around resuming normal services increase.

‘Testing of health and care workers and the people they are caring for – even if they have no symptoms – has to be a priority,’ she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said the NHS would ‘continue to routinely and strategically test asymptomatic front-line staff’.

‘We will continue to ensure the NHS has everything it needs to provide the high-quality care the public expect, and we have already provided a significant number of new CT scanners, X-ray machines and portable ultrasounds as part of the response to COVID-19.’

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