This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

The waiting game

Healthcare workers with early symptoms set to be tested for Covid-19

The Government is set to scale up testing, including early testing for healthcare workers and testing for asymptomatic individuals on whether they have already had the disease, the chief medical officer has announced.

In the first daily briefing by the Prime Minister, the CMO Professor Chris Whitty said that they are continuing to scale up testing on a weekly basis.

He added that Public Health England is ‘rapidly developing’ a test for whether people have already had the disease.

GPs have expressed concerns around testing for practice staff, with testing being predominantly carried out in hospitals.

Responding to a question on the World Health Organization’s declaration that some countries were not doing enough testing, Professor Whitty said: ‘We agree with the secretary general that testing is absolutely essential.

‘We do intend to scale up testing. But I think it is important to realise the scale of UK testing, which has been substantial. There have been 44,000 tests conducted and we will continue to scale up the testing every week.’

He added that the current tests are only for people who currently have the disease. He said: ‘The thing that will be transformational will be a test to reliably tell us if someone has previously had the disease so we can find out what proportion of people get this infection without symptoms. Currently such a test is not reliable, but it is being developed very rapidly by Public Health England.’

When asked about the testing of healthcare workers, Professor Whitty said: ‘Once we have the capacity to do this - which we are going towards very fast - healthcare and other critical workers [will be tested] early on in their illness. If they end up having the symptoms, but not coronavirus, then they will be able to go back to work, which is good for the NHS, good for society.

‘If they have got it, at least you know they have got it and won’t get it again. So a positive or negative test are therefore useful for the service so there is a very strong incentive to get this out as fast as we can practically manage it.’

In the same briefing, the Prime Minister announced a series of ‘drastic measures’, including extreme social distancing measures for elderly patients and those with underlying health issues.

Readers' comments (17)

  • We should also be able to test household members as if they are unwell we've been told to self isolate with them for 14 days regardless of whether we have symptoms. Can Pulse put this point them please?!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • For a professional audience... "a test to reliably tell us if someone has previously had the disease so we can find out what proportion of people get this infection without symptoms. Currently such a test is not reliable, but it is being developed very rapidly by Public Health England.’"

    If they mean serology, why don't they say so? And if not serology, then what?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Following the recent NHS/Govt guidance to isolate, primary care is hemorrhaging staff into quarantine, many asymptomatic and desperate to get back. As testing for the general public is scaled back why oh why is primary care unable to access testing?
    Am I missing something? Surely providing a primary care workforce fit for purpose will help the deluge faced by secondary care.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Until we know who has been/is infected we will remain in a state of paralysis. This will be two parts, one the oropharyngeal swab for those shedding virus and the IgG/IgM testing for current previous exposure. then we will know and can get people back to normal as soon as possible.
    This will apply to the general population too. The current lockdown will not be financially sustainable for more than 2 weeks and the vaccine will be months away.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I agree that it should be brought in as soon as possible but the argument that once infected, they'll not get it again, in not a 100% KNOWN.
    Its too early in the Epidemiology for this to be called a fact.
    Reinfection might even mean a poorer outcome. If no testing is carried out because you have had a previous infection of COVID would not be prudent and could be a dangerous attitude/ stance by the Govt.
    So yes test: know if infected (take all precautions) once cleared return to work (but if re-infected then don't deny a second testing).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • https://theunionjournal.com/nhs-doctor-52-is-on-life-support-amid-fears-many-more-medics-will-catch-coronavirus/

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Please huury up! Half my staff are off now with self isolation. Those of us left are struggling. I doubt many have Covid-19; so they will have to go off again when they actually contract it. If I could test them I could get them back to work in a few days.

    Help--we are drowning!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say