Health chiefs support call to test frontline NHS staff for coronavirus in Shropshire

Health chiefs in Shropshire have supported calls to screen frontline NHS staff for coronavirus, but say they are awaiting further guidance on what will happen.

The government has pledged to prioritise the testing of frontline health staff in England for Covid-19 amid concerns about diminishing staffing levels.

The move comes amid concern that nurses and other vital NHS staff may be prevented from coming into work just because they have a minor cough or cold.

Testing would allow those with negative results to return to work in hospitals.

The idea has been backed by David Evans, accountable officer for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups and Shropshire Council's director of public health Rachel Robinson.

But they say they are awaiting further guidance from Public Health England.

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Public Health England has been tasked with establishing “targeted staff testing” for key NHS workers with coronavirus symptoms who might otherwise need to self-isolate.

It is among a range of measures set out in a letter to NHS trusts, GP practices and providers of community services from NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and NHS chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard.

It urges chief executives to ensure “enhanced health and wellbeing support” for frontline staff.


The letter said: “As extra coronavirus testing capability comes on line we are also asking Public Health England as a matter of urgency to establish NHS targeted staff testing for symptomatic staff who would otherwise need to self-isolate for seven days."

It comes as more than a million people have signed a petition calling for frontline NHS staff to be tested for Covid-19 as a priority.

Mr Evans said: “At the moment we are awaiting further guidance, but given the requirement to self-isolate if anyone has any symptoms then clearly it would be helpful if NHS staff could be tested so if they are not positive they can then return to work as quickly as possible.”

Ms Robinson added: “ Staff testing would protect staff, as a valuable asset, and also protect the public that they are serving.

"We support staff testing as a health protection measure.”

It comes as visiting restrictions have been introduced at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Telford's Princess Royal Hospital, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital near Oswestry and the county's community hospitals.

Non-urgent surgery in the county is also being cancelled for at least three months.

It is understood there has been a recent drop in the numbers of patients turning up at Shropshire's accident and emergency departments, but official figures will not be known until next week.

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