• Trusts told to expand testing to all non-elective inpatients, even if they do not have covid-19 symptoms
  • Similar approach to be issued for elective patients
  • Comes amid major expansion of testing capacity as government seeks to meet 100,000 daily target

A new coronavirus testing regime for patients being admitted to hospital is set to be outlined by NHS England, HSJ has learned.

In a letter from chief nurse Ruth May and medical director Stephen Powis, sent to local leaders on Friday, local organisations were told to expand testing to all non-elective inpatients from 27 April, even if they do not have covid-19 symptoms.

It adds a similar approach will shortly be outlined for elective patients.

Previous advice from Public Health England said only symptomatic patients should be tested.

It comes amid a major expansion of testing capacity as the government aims to meet its target of 100,000 daily tests by the end of April, and as trusts consider how to begin running more normal healthcare services, without adding further to the spread of the virus.

The letter, seen by HSJ, said: “As more test capacity has been made available to us, we can now go beyond PHE’s original advice which prioritised symptomatic patients and key workers.”

It says trusts should also prepare to “cohort patients as possible covid-19 cases who need to be admitted whilst they await a test result”.

It adds: “Appropriate infection, prevention control recommendations must then be followed. Where this isn’t immediately possible you should work to put this in place as soon as possible.

“We will work with your laboratories and your pathology incident directors to ensure enough supplies of swabs. Samples should be sent to local testing laboratories as per routine arrangements.”

The turnaround time across the country for results is varied.

The letter was sent to all trusts, including mental health trusts. Ms May and Professor Powis also represent NHS Improvement.