Sky News has revealed that NHS England bosses have been told to ‘max-out’ their testing on NHS staff as lab capacity for the tests starts to increase.
In a letter addressed to NHS Chief Executives, shared by Sky News’ Beth Rigby, Pauline Phillip DBE wrote to say:
“Following our Sunday letter on staff testing, as lab capacity is increasing, we now can and must further increase staff/index case testing. We want to max-out all available capacity in doing so, and so are now removing the 15% cap immediately.
“Effective today, we are therefore asking Chief executives of trusts that host an NHS lab doing COVID-19 testing personally to ensure that your lab’s capacity is fully used each and every day.
“This can be achieved by using all spare testing for staff/index testing, either from within your own organisation or those of neighbouring acute and ambulance trusts. As soon as this has been implemented, and as extra lab volumes become available, the approach can over the coming days be extended to community, mental health and primary care services, along with social care.
“Given the lead time between swabbing and lab testing, it is vital that sufficient numbers of staff/index cases are swabbed today and each successive day to fill the next day’s lab testing capacity. This means immediate action please to ‘industrialise’ staff swabbing processes.
“In order to implement this effectively, we have today begun an 8,00 p.m stocktake of staff/index cases swabbed and tests undertaken in the last 24 hours, together with a forward look of staff/index cases that require testing in the next 24 hours.
“The information will help us to support you in aligning demand for tests with where current capacity sits, as your collective data suggests that some Pathology Networks are almost to maximum levels whilst others have significant surpluses. The army will assist you in moving samples around the country as quickly as possible, together with swabs should those required be different to the type used in your local laboratory. We are also working hard to secure additional reagents to further increase capacity, recognising that this remains a key constraint for many laboratories”.
The news will be widely welcomed by NHS staff who are having to self-isolate as soon as they show any signs of COVID-19, which has put a considerable constraint on the effectiveness of many NHS departments.
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