All patient-facing NHS staff are to be offered twice weekly home testing for Covid-19, the Government has confirmed.
The chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty, medical director Professor Stephen Powis, and chief nursing officer Ruth May outlined the new plans for home testing for Covid-19, in a letter dated 9 November
The letter stated: ‘Following further scientific validation of the lateral flow testing modality last week, and confirmation over the weekend from Test and Trace that they can now supply the NHS with sufficient test kits, I am pleased to confirm asymptomatic testing of all patient-facing NHS staff.’
Staff will be provided with DIY at-home testing kits and asked to test themselves twice a week with results available before coming into work. The DIY test kits will be deployed by 34 trusts initially, benefitting over 250 000 staff. The NHS will train all staff appropriately before commencing home testing.
The new test kits are lateral flow devices, and although less sensitive than PCR testing used in health care settings, testing twice a week can help mitigate against this, according to the Government. Positive results will be retested via PCR testing.
The Innova lateral flow devices are already in use in Liverpool. The letter states that at-home testing ‘builds on the extensive asymptomatic staff testing already occurring in parts of the country with outbreaks – over 70,000 NHS staff have been tested asymptomatically in those areas in recent days.’
Throughout the pandemic, the Royal College of Nursing has been calling for better access to Covid-19 tests for nurses and health care professionals.
Earlier in the year, Mike Adams, RCN director for England, stated: ‘Without access to proper testing, and an efficient process that ensures results are turned around quickly, nursing staff, as well as those they care for, will be put at unnecessary risk.’