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Calls for weekly Covid-19 tests for all NHS staff

The Labour Party is urging the Government to introduce weekly Covid-19 testing for all NHS staff to reduce the spread of infection in healthcare settings.

The Department of Health and Social Care said at the beginning of April that it would be testing critical key workers regularly once widespread testing became available, while NHS England said at the end of April that asymptomatic NHS staff would get tested.

Despite this, the Government has so far only advised NHS Trusts to routinely test asymptomatic frontline staff, and only on a strategic basis to reduce infection risk where there is reason for concern.

But a recent study from Imperial College London suggested that weekly testing of healthcare workers is ‘estimated to reduce their contribution to transmission by 25-33%, on top of reductions achieved by self-isolation following symptoms’.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Regular testing of all NHS staff must now be an urgent priority. Weekly testing of all healthcare workers reduces the spread of the virus and helps protect NHS staff and patients.

‘Eventually resetting the NHS to continue treating Covid and non-Covid patients is going to have to take priority. This should include putting in place infection control measures to make sure patients can continue to safely receive their care, and routine testing of all staff should be a part of this.’

It comes as the Royal College of Surgeons’ president Professor Derek Alderson has told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee that regular testing of healthcare staff about twice weekly would be ‘pragmatic’.

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘The approach we are taking is repeat testing based on clinical need. Some people in hospital settings are at higher risk than others so it is better to focus resources on them. For instance, someone working in a finance department is at a much lower risk than someone in a frontline setting.’