NHS staff symptomatic for coronavirus, who otherwise would need to self-isolate, are to be tested ‘as a matter of urgency’, a letter sent to NHS bosses has said.
The letter from NHS England and NHS Improvement warned the health service will come under ‘intense pressure’ during the worsening coronavirus outbreak. As of Monday, there 1,543 cases and 55 people have died of the virus in the UK.
The letter, sent to leaders at all NHS and foundation trusts, practices and community health services, stated: ‘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 7 days.’
It comes after chief medical officer Chris Whitty announced that the Government was set to scale up testing, including early testing for healthcare workers and testing for asymptomatic individuals on whether they have already had the disease.
The document also said ‘urgent work’ around mobilising student nurses to help tackle coronavirus will be finalised ‘in the next week’ following collaboration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
NMC registrants who stopped practicing within the last three years are being written to by the regulator to see whether they would be willing to return to help in some way, it added.
The letter also stated that NHS England and NHS Improvement would:
· ask nurses in non-patient facing roles to join direct clinical practice;
· offer staff affected by the 14-day household isolation policy (where people must self-isolate if a member of their household shows symptoms) NHS-reimbursed hotel accommodation while they continue to work;
· instruct NHS organisations to ‘make adjustments’ for staff at increased risk of serious illness from coronavirus, which may include working remotely or moving to a lower risk area;
· urge NHS organisations to consider how to support otherwise healthy staff who are at higher risk of severe illness, which may include supporting telephone-based or video consultations.
Boris Johnson yesterday announced ‘drastic’ measures to tackle the coronavirus, including asking everyone to stop ‘non-essential’ contact with others regardless of whether they have coronavirus.