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COVID-19: routine testing imminent for front-line nurses, says NHS England chief

Sir Simon Stevens suggests testing could commence within six to eight weeks

Sir Simon Stevens suggests testing could commence within six to eight weeks

The head of the NHS in England has indicated that all patient-facing nurses and health service staff will soon be given routine COVID-19 tests.

Chief executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens said a new type of test, and increased capacity, mean that testing for all front-line workers – regardless of whether they have symptoms – could begin within six to eight weeks.

Sir Simon Stevens

Staff in high-risk regions of England already receive routine

Sir Simon Stevens suggests testing could commence within six to eight weeks

Picture: SPL

The head of the NHS in England has indicated that all patient-facing nurses and health service staff will soon be given routine COVID-19 tests.

Chief executive of NHS England Sir Simon Stevens said a new type of test, and increased capacity, mean that testing for all front-line workers – regardless of whether they have symptoms – could begin within six to eight weeks.

Sir Simon Stevens

Staff in high-risk regions of England already receive routine testing

Sir Simon told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Routine testing of asymptomatic NHS staff has now begun in high prevalence parts of the country, areas where there are outbreaks, and more than 70,000 NHS staff have had those tests within the last several weeks.

‘And the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, yesterday wrote to the health committee to parliament explaining that, because the availability of testing had now increased, and we’ve got this new saliva testing that will be available for hospital and other health service staff over the next six or eight weeks, we will now be able to press on routinely testing all patient-facing NHS staff.’

Possible weekly COVID-19 test for front-line NHS workers

On Monday, Sarah-Jane Marsh, the outgoing director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, suggested that routine staff testing could occur on a weekly basis.

In Northern Ireland more frequent routine testing for care home nurses and staff has been announced. Testing will increase from once every two weeks to once a week and will be rolled out across the country from next week. More widespread routine testing across the NHS in Northern Ireland is also 'under active consideration'.

In regards to routine testing in Wales, a spokesperson for the Welsh Government told Nursing Standard: 'As is set out in our testing strategy, we continue to protect and maintain a safe working environment for our NHS staff. Available NHS testing capacity is being used to strategically test asymptomatic frontline staff as part of infection prevention and control measures.'

The health department in Scotland highlighted: 'We are keeping all testing policies under active review, in line with expert advice and the changing prevalence and local epidemiology.

'Our approach to COVID-19 testing continues to be adaptive as we deal with the pandemic and the coming winter months and planning work on delivery to additional cohorts in line with clinical guidance is underway.'

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