Healthcare workers outside of NHS finding it harder to access testing, survey suggests

‘It is concerning to see that some nursing staff, particularly those outside the NHS, are still having issues accessing Covid-19 testing’, Royal College of Nursing chief says

Vincent Wood
Monday 04 May 2020 07:14 BST
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Nurses take care of patients infected by Covid-19.
Nurses take care of patients infected by Covid-19.

Healthcare workers providing support outside of the NHS are finding it harder to access coronavirus tests than their colleagues inside the service, a survey of nurses has suggested.

A poll of 22,000 health and care workers conducted by the Royal College of Nursing found 44 per cent of respondents did not know how to access testing – while 76 per cent said they had not been offered a test.

The problem was also particularly pronounced among the temporary workers, with four in five not offered testing compared to three quarters of full time workers.

Meanwhile the survey found 79 per cent of those working outside of the NHS had not been offered a test, compared with 75 per cent in the health service.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “It is concerning to see that some nursing staff, particularly those outside the NHS, are still having issues accessing Covid-19 testing.

“We know that additional measures have been recently put in place to improve access to testing and will monitor the situation closely.

“All health and care staff must be able to access testing so they can work safely and without worry.

“This is essential given existing workforce shortages across all health and care settings.”

In response, the Department for Health and Social Care said testing policies had been vastly expanded since the survey was conducted.

The UK-wide survey was open from Friday 24 April and closed on Tuesday 28 April. In a bid to reach its target of 100,000 tests a day, the government dramatically expanded the list of people who are eligible for coronavirus tests in England on 28 April.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We changed our eligibility on testing on April 28, after this survey took place.

“Thanks to a combined national effort between Government, industry, universities the NHS, and PHE we have significantly expanded capacity and are now offering tests to all essential workers including those in the NHS and social care, as well as everyone in England aged 65 and over with symptoms.

“We’ve tested over 1.2 million people, including over 236,000 healthcare workers and remain determined to ensure that everyone who needs a test can get one.

“Health and care staff can access tests online or via their employer and can be swabbed in a drive through centre, one of our mobile testing units or order a test to use at home.”

Additional reporting by PA

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