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COVID tests: nurses left unclear on who will pay as 1 April looms

Failure by government to clarify COVID testing policy for healthcare staff leaves nurses facing possible £50 monthly charges when free universal testing ends

Failure by government to clarify COVID testing policy for healthcare staff leaves nurses facing possible £50 monthly charges when free universal testing ends

Nurses could be forced to fork out £50 each month for COVID-19 tests if free testing for NHS staff is scrapped, health leaders have warned.

Government fails to issue updated guidance on COVID testing plan for nurses

With free testing for all due to end next week, unions and NHS managers are calling for urgent clarification on what that means for front-line health and care staff.

NHS staff are still required to test for the virus two times a week. However, free universal testing is set to end on 1 April with free tests only available

Failure by government to clarify COVID testing policy for healthcare staff leaves nurses facing possible £50 monthly charges when free universal testing ends

COVID testing kits: nurses have been left unclear on who will pay as 1 April looms
Picture: Alamy

Nurses could be forced to fork out £50 each month for COVID-19 tests if free testing for NHS staff is scrapped, health leaders have warned.

Government fails to issue updated guidance on COVID testing plan for nurses

With free testing for all due to end next week, unions and NHS managers are calling for urgent clarification on what that means for front-line health and care staff.

NHS staff are still required to test for the virus two times a week. However, free universal testing is set to end on 1 April with free tests only available for the most vulnerable.

A month ago, NHS and primary care managers were sent a letter promising ‘specific detail on the various testing protocols for patients and staff’.

But further guidance from the government has yet to materialise, prompting fears staff may be made to paid for their own tests.

NHS Confederation calls for continued free testing for NHS staff

With some retailers charging as much as £6 for lateral flow tests, staff could end up paying about £50 a month, according to the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations.

This would be a further blow to nurses who are facing huge increases in the cost of living including soaring energy bills and petrol prices.

NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said health leaders were adamant free testing for NHS staff must continue with many still having to take time off due to COVID.

‘In the face of a cost-of-living crisis, many staff will simply not be able to afford to regularly buy their tests,’ he said.

‘Given the huge expectations on the NHS to recover its services while contending with significant vacancies, staff need to be supported to understand their COVID status, stay well and keep transmission in healthcare settings to a minimum.’

RCN: ‘nurses must not be left out of pocket when protecting patients’

RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said increases in infection rates among staff in hospitals and the community showed the need to protect front-line workers.

‘Nursing staff must have access to free testing as well as continued access to the highest grade personal protective equipment,’ she said.

‘They must not be left out of pocket when protecting themselves and their patients.’

In February, health secretary Sajid Javid said that if NHS staff ‘need tests they will be provided with free tests – that will be a decision for the NHS’.

The Department for Health and Social Care told Nursing Standard it will publish more details on testing soon.

‘We will be outlining further details on our future testing policy, ensuring those most vulnerable can access free tests, in due course,’ said a spokesperson.


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