NHS recovery threatened by lack of coronavirus tests, say hospital bosses
A lack of Covid-19 tests is taking valuable NHS staff away from the frontline where they are needed, hospital bosses have warned.
NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said staff are having to self-isolate rather than work because they cannot get tests for themselves or family members.
Health trust leaders are growing increasingly concerned that current testing shortages are starting to impact on the recovery of NHS services, and preparations for the winter pressures of coronavirus and seasonal flu are also being hampered.
“If staff absences continue to increase due to a lack of testing ability, these pressures will accelerate,” said a spokesperson for NHS Providers.
Chief executive Chris Hopson said: “The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.
“They need to know all this information so that they can plan accordingly.”
He continued: “Trusts also have a concern about the impact of testing shortages on patients who need to be tested prior to planned hospital treatment.
“We’re aware of a small number of examples of patients being unable to get such tests, which cuts across trusts’ ability to restore services in the way they have been asked to do. We are concerned, for example, that patients waiting for hospital treatment can no longer highlight this fact when applying online to access a test.
“We need to prioritise tests for healthcare workers and their families and patients coming in for treatment, many of whom have already waited longer than normal.”
The government’s testing system – part of its test, track and trace operation which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised would be “world-beating” – has faced criticism in recent weeks.
An increase in demand for coronavirus tests has led to local shortages – with some people being sent to test sites hundreds of miles from home.