Nursing union criticises “very dissapointing” lack of coronavirus testing

Just 2,000 NHS workers have been tested.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has told Left Foot Forward that the number of NHS staff being tested for coronavirus is “very dissapointing”.

The government said yesterday that just 2,000 NHS workers had been tested. More than 1.5 million people work for the NHS in the UK including 660,000 nurses.

An RCN spokesperson told Left Foot Forward: “It’s very disappointing to learn that only around 2,000 NHS staff have been tested so far. We have been demanding priority testing for ALL health and care staff. We need to see a huge increase in the number of these tests, so that staff who test negative can carry on working rather than have to self-isolate for long periods.”

Testing of frontline NHS staff is important because the health service needs all the staff it can get to deal with coronavirus patients alongside their normal duties.

Many healthcare workers are off work self isolating because they have coronavirus symptoms. Although they have symptoms, many will not have coronavirus and therefore could be at work. So they need tests to establish whether they have the virus or not.

Critics have also said that not enough patients are being tested. Around 8,000 patients and staff are being tested a day. This is far less than Germany where 70,000 are being tested every day.

Scientists have urged the government to loosen the rules on the production of tests to speed up the process.

Proffesor Nicola Stonehouse, a molecular virologist at Leeds University said: “The NHS have very specific requirements and there is good reason for that. It makes sure that standards are maintained. But there are alternatives. They need to be optimised and validated, but you can fast-track that if you have enough people. It wouldn’t take a lot of time.”

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