Non-NHS healthcare staff had less access to Covid-19 tests – study | Society

Healthcare staff working outside the NHS or on temporary contracts have had less access to coronavirus tests, a survey suggests.

Initially only patients in hospital could get tests in the UK. Then testing was expanded to NHS staff and care home staff. Now up to 10 million essential workers and their families who are showing symptoms of coronavirus can apply for a test via a government website. 

The list of essential workers is the same as the one used to allow the children of key workers to carry on going to school during the lockdown. In addition to health and social care staff, the list includes teachers, judges, some lawyers, religious staff, and journalists providing public service broadcasting.

Also included are local civil servants, police, armed service personnel, fire and rescue service staff, immigration officers and prison and probation staff. Some private-sector staff also qualify including vets, those in food production, essential financial services and information technology, as well as those working in the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors.

Matthew Weaver

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) UK-wide survey of more than 22,000 health and care workers was conducted over the weekend before the government’s announcement of testing expansion.

At that time, 76% of all those surveyed said they had not been offered a test. Of those, 44% said they did not know how to access testing.

The RCN also found more than four in five temporary staff had not been offered Covid-19 testing, compared to three-quarters of permanent staff.

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

It found that in care homes and prisons, about 50% did not know how to access tests. With temporary staff, this figure was 60%.

Of the staff who were offered testing, 90% were able to access it.

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.”

The UK-wide survey was open from 24 April to 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.