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Coronavirus update

There has been lots of talk about testing for covid-19 — and for whom — but less noise about the time spent waiting for tests.

But now sources from NHS trusts in the Black Country, south London and Essex have told HSJ they have waited between three and seven days for covid-19 tests to be completed by Public Health England’s labs.

The test itself takes around four hours, but PHE has been working — not always successfully — towards a target of maximum 48 hours.

Thankfully, turnaround times are likely to improve now that trusts have also begun to conduct covid-19 tests in their own labs.

Meanwhile, a major bulk-purchase of antibody home-testing kits, which should be just days away from being added to the NHS’ armoury, should also help ease the pressure.

Matt Hancock announced on Tuesday the government has bought 3.5 million home testing kits. Then, on Wednesday, Sharon Peacock, director of Public Health England’s national infection service, told MPs these would be available within days. 

The tests will be available for people to order on Amazon or to be carried out at high street pharmacies such as Boots, she said.

Meanwhile, NHS England has doubled down on efforts to boost its workforce and has invited back staff who had previously been served redundancy letters.

NHSE director of people and organisational development Helen Buller last week wrote to staff members affected by redundancy and called for them to return temporarily in certain “key roles”.

Ms Buller set out the temporary opportunities, which included senior band 8 roles in infection prevention, community testing and strategic preparedness.

NHSE was clear in its comment to HSJ: “Exceptional times require pragmatic and flexible responses.”