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DIY coronavirus testing for front-line NHS staff from this week

Twice-weekly COVID-19 tests to be introduced for patient-facing workforce
COVID-19 rapid test kits, which are to be offered to all front-line staff in NHS England

Nurses and colleagues will get results in minutes, amid warning services will struggle to cope if staff self-isolation spikes

All patient-facing NHS staff in England will be offered twice-weekly DIY testing for coronavirus, starting this week.

Nurses and other staff will be trained to use lateral flow testing devices at home, with results available in minutes.

Until now, only NHS staff in regions where COVID-19 incidence is high have been offered asymptomatic testing.

The lateral flow test is less accurate than the widely-used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, but the twice-weekly testing regime is designed to go some way to offset this.

Nurses and colleagues will get results in minutes, amid warning services will struggle to cope if staff self-isolation spikes

COVID-19 rapid test kit
COVID-19 rapid test kit

All patient-facing NHS staff in England will be offered twice-weekly DIY testing for coronavirus, starting this week.

Nurses and other staff will be trained to use lateral flow testing devices at home, with results available in minutes.

Until now, only NHS staff in regions where COVID-19 incidence is high have been offered asymptomatic testing.

The lateral flow test is less accurate than the widely-used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, but the twice-weekly testing regime is designed to go some way to offset this.

Positive tests will be cross-checked using the PCR method.

How twice-weekly asymptomatic testing will work

What is the difference between lateral flow and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests?

Both involve nose or throat swabs. Lateral flow tests results are fast, but less accurate. PCR test results take up to 24 hours to come back from the lab.

When does twice weekly testing start?

This week, for 250,000 staff across 34 trusts. The remaining eligible workforce will be offered tests from next week.

Who is eligible?

All patient-facing staff in the NHS in England, including agency workers, students, and apprentices.

How will staff be trained to test themselves?

By video and information leaflet.

Can staff be forced to take the tests?

No.

What happens if I test positive?

Follow government guidelines, self-isolate and notify your employer.

Services could suffer if staff absence soars

NHS Providers chief executive, Saffron Cordery said trusts would face operational difficulties if large numbers of asymptomatic staff are found.

Last week, an estimated 30,000 NHS staff in England were self-isolating or off work due to COVID-19.

Ms Cordery said: ‘We need to recognise getting tests done on this scale is going to be a significant challenge.

‘There could be difficulties for trusts under major operational pressure that have to manage the risk of losing a number of front-line staff all at once, if a significant number of tests come back positive at the same time.’

The Department of Health and Social Care did not say whether it planned to widen the testing to social care staff.


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