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Independents' Day

GPs to start getting tested for coronavirus from this week

GPs are among NHS staff who will start being tested for coronavirus (Covid-19) this week, in response to widespread calls to prioritise healthcare workers.

The Department of Health and Social Care said testing facilities will be significantly ramped up to support the bid to increase the number of tests that can be carried out on a daily basis.

Across the country, universities, research institutes and companies including Boots, Amazon and Royal Mail, will lend their testing equipment to three new hub laboratories.

These labs will be used solely for coronavirus testing, and will function in addition to the pre-existing facilities of the NHS and Public Health England.

The first lab is believed to have processed around 800 samples last weekend, and Boots has already begun testing NHS workers at its Nottingham site.

According to the Government, the free-of-charge service will help to end the uncertainty of whether NHS staff need to stay at home.

Those who test negative will be permitted to return to work sooner than if they had to self-isolate for the currently mandated 14 days, bolstering the NHS’ workforce when it needs it the most.

Speaking at Friday's press briefing, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: ‘Today we’re announcing that we will be rolling out staff testing across the NHS, beginning next week, starting with the critical care nurses, other staff in intensive care, emergency departments, ambulance services, GP

Announcing the ramped up testing facilities, deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said: ‘Laboratory-based testing on this scale is a little like building the medical equivalent of a car factory.

'We are assembling many different parts, some of them quite specialised and hard to find, then getting them to work accurately together in a highly co-ordinated process.

‘There are bound to be teething problems, so we cannot switch on hundreds of thousands of lab tests overnight. But we hope that soon these hub laboratories will be operating round the clock, allowing us to significantly scale up our testing.’

The decision has won the support of the BMA and RCGP, which both spent weeks campaigning for it. 

Dr Jonathan Leach, joint honorary secretary of the RCGP, said: ‘GPs and their teams are committed to delivering care to patients in these challenging circumstances, but they must be well enough to do so, and this new measure will help make that possible.

‘We have heard from numerous GPs and members of the wider practice team who were self-isolating due to Covid-19 but wanted to be tested because they felt well enough to work.

‘At a time when we need all hands-on deck, we hope that this roll-out of testing frontline NHS staff will increase the capacity of general practice and the wider NHS during the pandemic so that patients can continue to receive the care they need.’

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul ageed that the announcement is ‘long overdue’.

He said: ‘For every healthy member of staff at home self-isolating needlessly when they do not have the virus, the NHS is short of someone who could be providing vital care to patients on the frontline.

‘This is incredibly frustrating for doctors and their colleagues, who want to be working and supporting their colleagues and patients – but cannot due to lack of testing so far.

‘While the Government has announced this this will commence with certain categories of staff, it is crucial that these tests are rolled out to all healthcare workers and their households urgently – so that if they do test negative, they can support the health service at a time when they are needed most.’

And, writing in the Daily Mail over the weekend, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt added: ‘We should aim to be the first country able to test all its health and care frontline staff every week so they can be confident they are not infecting their own patients. 

‘We owe our brilliant and brave frontline professionals no less.’

The World Health Organisation has previously championed a ‘test, test, test’ approach, whilst GPs have long expressed frustration with high-profile figures such as the Prime Minister, health secretary and Prince Charles testing positive for the virus when they were largely denied tests.

So far, 127,737 people in the UK have been tested, leading to 19,522 diagnoses.

Related images

  • coronavirus test - getty - RF

Readers' comments (10)

  • I just can’t get my head round why testing wasn’t organised weeks ago. It was clear when our first colleagues went off sick that a test would enable those who didn’t have Covid to get back to work sooner. Why is the deputy CMO saying it’s going to be hard to get all the bits together and check they’re working? What’s the matter with them? They seem totally incompetent. They’ve had WEEKS!! I despair.

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  • Anyone coming into contact with covid patients needs to be tested weekly regardless of symptoms. To do otherwise undermines social distancing and will spread the virus. We have been disgracefully slow with testing. It will no doubt cost large numbers of lives of health professionals, their families and their patients.

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  • This is one of the best information reports from Korea that I felt I had to share with anyone that was interested. A trusted clinician working in this field for 30 years that seems to have learned from previous epidemics unlike us in the West. I feel his advice is sound and will spur me into wearing a mask and gloves at least regardless of who I am seeing considering 20% of asymptomatic patients will be positive for Covid 19. Please watch at least and make your own judgements.

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  • Vinci Ho

    ’’GPs have long expressed frustration with high-profile figures such as the Prime Minister, health secretary and Prince Charles testing positive for the virus when they were largely denied tests.‘’

    Frustration ? Seriously?
    Has the English dictionary got no better word to use in here ?
    What about ‘rage’ , ‘anger’ , ‘disgust’ , ‘humiliation’ , ‘denigration ’ , ‘devaluation’ etc Many more words to choose

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  • Jmd

    This is good. There is always a but, which is:
    The covid 19 Antigen test if negative doesn’t reassure anyone as when you return to work you may still vulnerable to acquiring the virus. Hence, logic says this Ag test needs to be repeated frequently,
    The real option is covid Ag test with serology.

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  • Ivan Benett

    Strangely, I find myself in total agreement with Vinci Ho. I’m going to say it shameful and disgusting how the Government has dragged its heels on protecting the front line.

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  • When exactly are we being tested. Date. How to organise one etc etc. Glad to know we are not essential in the scheme of things. Or of any value. Actors, footballers, royals yes. Doctors no. No wonder my kids want to emigrate from the UK. It's not a fair society. It's all about the kching.

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  • Points to note :
    1. Mercifully the Virus can not travel through telephone, which is the 99% method of all GP consultations.
    2. Unless the test is antigen/ antibody detection, testing negative this morning can turn to positive this evening
    3. Very bad news for us if the GP testing means we have to actually see the patients face to face and open our perpetually locked surgeries.

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  • @philosopher1 - just so I can assess the credibility of your repeated assertions, what exactly is your role, given that you self loathingly tarnish yourself with the plural pronouns that lead us to be believe you’re one of us, yet your status tells us you’re in training, and your comments and username have the content of a non GP troll, a 17 contrarian year old reddit user, or a broken bit of AI that seems stuck on the same non evidence based authoritative declarations about telephone consultations, PPE efficacy and GP pay. Just out of interest really, as it’s been a long time (since Pulse stopped registering people without a GMC number) that there’s been someone this persistently insufferable lingering on these comments. If you despise the status quo, take on shifts in an assessment centre (staffed here by GPs working exclusively face to face), or get back to the hospital that you revere - “cowards dare others to do what they themselves dare not do”.

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  • The government have had weeks to improve testing not only to NHS staff but to patients too. They are invested in appearing macho... look how good they are at building new hospitals, encouraging businesses to build ventilators and now building temporary mortuaries!

    I work as a GP I am on day 26 of fatigue and fever. I am working from home and still putting in my usual hours. I’d love to be with my colleagues albeit 2m apart. But I can’t because of the lack of tests. I hope this is the least of my frustrations as if I haven’t got covid19 what have I got... no way of knowing as we’ve stopped investigating pyrexia all together right now... worrying for a previously fit adult!

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