• DHSC: “Testing regime set up to provide for those who need tests most”
  • Remains unclear which staff will be tested
  • Staff have previously raised concerns about lack of testing

NHS staff are to be given access to testing for covid-19, the government said this morning, but it remains unclear how the policy will be applied.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said at lunchtime: “Our testing regime is set up to provide for those who need tests the most. This includes key workers, such as NHS staff. We will set out more details shortly.”

It remains unclear how this will be applied.

The announcement follows concerns from healthcare professionals they are not being tested for the virus, even if they had been exposed to infected patients.

Last week, the government said testing would concentrate on those admitted to hospital or in critical care units with respiratory issues, such as apparent flu or pneumonia, and those in care homes and similar residential settings where there was an outbreak. Testing of suspected cases in the community was discontinued.

However, many NHS staff felt they were left exposed to potential infection with no way of accessing tests. This could potentially lead to them infecting other patients, or having to take time off work to self-isolate if they developed symptoms, without confirmation of whether they had the virus or not.

Several news outlets reported overnight that Public Health England had said NHS staff would only be tested if they met the standard criteria, but a press briefing in Downing Street this morning suggested testing would be made available.

However, it is unclear whether those who do not display symptoms will be able to access testing. The DHSC said current advice is for anyone with symptoms which could be caused by the virus should self-isolate for seven days, which it expected to cover the “vast majority” of NHS staff who would be tested.