• Acute trusts to set aside tests to get key staff back to work
  • Staff in critical care, emergency departments and ambulance services to be prioritised
  • Hundreds of antigen tests for NHS’ front line promised shortly

Acute trusts have been told to set aside 15 per cent of their daily coronavirus tests for NHS key workers who are quarantining at home with others.

New guidance for NHS trust chief executives on covid-19 testing has been published after NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens announced hundreds of frontline staff would be given antigen tests from next week.

The guidance from NHSE said acute trusts should prioritise testing staff working in critical care, emergency departments and ambulance services, along with “any other high priority groups you determine locally”.

Covid-19 testing would then be “sequentially expand(ed)” to other NHS staff groups as more tests are made available, and then to other “essential” public services, including social care, according to the guidance from NHSE chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard, national medical director Stephen Powis and Sarah-Jane Marsh, chief executive of Birmingham Women and Children’s Foundation Trust.

Acute trusts have also been told to identify staff in the initial priority groups – critical care and emergency departments – who are unable to work because someone in their home may have covid-19 symptoms and are, therefore, subject to a 14-day self-isolation. Trusts are asked to initially allocate up to 15 per cent of its daily capacity to testing any such key workers and their co-habitants.

NHSE is also asking its regions to work with the National Ambulance Co-ordination Centre to make sure a share of each trusts’ 15 per cent is allocated to ambulance trusts and other locally-determined high priority groups.

NHSE is also working to establish further community testing centre, with priority given to areas facing the greatest challenges, according to the letter.