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Asymptomatic Covid testing for GPs and staff to be paused next week

Asymptomatic Covid testing for GPs and staff to be paused next week

Asymptomatic Covid testing for NHS staff in England will be paused from next week (31 August), the Government has announced.

It said this comes in response to declining rates of Covid transmission and thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign.

Asymptomatic testing will also stop in social care settings, except in the case of newly-admitted patients to care homes. In hospital settings, asymptomatic testing will continue for immunocompromised patients.

Symptomatic testing will continue in both NHS and social care settings, and testing will also be available for outbreaks in certain high-risk settings such as care homes.

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘Thanks to the success of our world-leading vaccination roll-out, we are able to continue living with Covid and, from 31 August, we will pause routine asymptomatic testing in most high-risk settings.

‘This reflects the fact case rates have fallen and the risk of transmission has reduced, though we will continue to closely monitor the situation and work with sectors to resume testing should it be needed. Those being admitted into care homes will continue to be tested.

‘Our upcoming autumn booster programme will offer jabs to protect those at greatest risk from severe Covid, and I urge everyone who is eligible to take up the offer.’

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘Covid case rates and hospitalisations are on the decline, demonstrating the positive impact of the vaccines, which remain our best form of defence.

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‘The data from our surveillance shows prevalence is low and decreasing, and we will continue to monitor this data closely.’

Free testing for the public ended on 1 April as part of the Government’s Living with Covid plan.

Covid cases have now fallen to 40,027 and the risk of transmission has reduced, the Government said. Deaths have fallen to 744 and hospitalisations to 6,005 in the last seven days.

But the BMA said ending testing was ‘premature’ and ‘will put patients and staff at risk’.

BMA occupational medicine committee co-chair Professor Raymond Agius said: ‘While case rates may be falling, pausing asymptomatic testing will put both staff and patients at increased risk as they are exposed to more people who have the virus but do not know it.

‘This in turn not only puts individuals’ health at risk but if more staff do become ill and have to take time off sick with the virus this further threatens NHS capacity when we need it most.’

Arguing that ’employers have an enduring legal obligation to implement measures to protect staff and patients’, Professor Agius said ‘any decision to change protective measures for healthcare staff and patients must be based on managers undertaking a local assessment of the ongoing risk of Covid-19’.

‘Unfortunately, this is a premature announcement from a government that seemingly wants to wish Covid-19 away, ignoring the reality that 1 in 40 people in England currently have the virus, and many remain susceptible to severe effects from it,’ he said.

GPs have been told to start delivering the autumn Covid booster campaign from 5 September, with patients set to receive Moderna’s new Omicron booster jab.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Fedup GP 24 August, 2022 4:56 pm


Finola ONeill 24 August, 2022 5:15 pm

been working from home all with with covid, husband has covid and lateral flow test still positive after 10 days. in fact everyone i know has covid. So twould not appear to me that it has gone anywhere. But there you go. We must show the government has got covid done, like it got brexit done and presumably will get energy bills done

Patrufini Duffy 24 August, 2022 8:26 pm

Well – had the worst 2 weeks of covid just now, and cleared out 2 other doctors too. All LFTs ragingly positive. We could protect our staff.
Never forget, how many people this lot killed off, denied the science, nailed you in the media and siphoned off the money.
Rats. But patient comes first.

David Church 25 August, 2022 10:40 am

Either the Health minister is deluded, or he has been fed fake information.
The vaccination programme is not a success because we are using ineffective vaccines that do not prevent infection.
To be honest, scientists would admit that it is not clear why there seems to be a slight drop in transmission at this time, given the recent peak had no clear epidemiological explanation either.
Numbers are not down to safe levels, and why risk the NHS service during the oncoming winter season of other viruses?
New variants give extremely short intervals before reinfection now.
And although LFDs are notoriously inaccurate, and completely fail to meet the criteria for a useful screening test, we have nothing else, given the infectivity starts up to 2 days before any symptoms, and about half of infections cause no symptoms, yet the ongoing rate of serious illness and long-term consequences is roughly static for 2 years.
Where is the evidence that it will ‘become milder’ in 2-3 years? MERS and SARS didn’t, Polio didn’t, Monkeypox has gotten worse. Only if enough of us die off will the remainder of potentially more resistant people (thought to be about 10% of population excluding BAME people) reliably suffer only ‘mild symptoms’, but they may have it 6-10 times a year; making them unwelcome tourists anywhere overseas!

David Gillman 26 August, 2022 10:13 am

About time too. In most cases, covid is just a mild/moderate/nasty viral illness and can be treated symptomatically or with absence from work if unwell. A tiny percentage require medical assessment, an even smaller percentage need hospital, and the death rate is low. On the other hand, identifying asymptomatic cases in a practice staff causes potentially huge disruption by requiring them to go home. Working from home is sometimes easy but not necessarily in every case. There is a short term and long term risk to patients caused by clinician absence. Anybody know how many cancer deaths/MIs/suicides etc might have been avoided if clinicians had been seeing patients face to face instead of working from home? There is a risk to staff, caused by increased stress. There is a small but not completely ignorable consideration of the cost of lfd and the disposal of them. There is an unquantifiable but real risk of ongoing public despondency and anxiety about the pandemic, at a time when we need people to be getting on with getting the country working properly again and repairing the damage that has arisen from the pandemic and the way is has been mishandled.

It is nonsensical that testing has stopped in almost all situations except for practice staff (and very few others like care home workers ) – vulnerable people are still sitting on buses or in pubs or in cinemas or in shops, surrounded in very close proximity by other people. The public don’t even have to test if they are coming to health centres, so it is inevitable that covid is in health centres on a fairly regular basis, often without anybody suspecting as much.

I don’t believe there is any real point in healthcare workers continuing to test. The risks outweigh the benefits.