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RCN: NHS should not cover staff Covid testing costs

RCN: NHS should not cover staff Covid testing costs

The Government should step in so the NHS and social care no longer have to absorb the cost of staff Covid testing into already ‘tight’ budgets, the RCN has said.

In a statement published today, Pat Cullen, RCN chief executive, urged the Government to ‘confront the realities’ of what its ‘living with Covid’ plan means for healthcare staff because the NHS cannot be expected to continue to financially cover free testing and PPE costs.

This comes as NHS England data has shown that staff absences due to Covid-19 have increased by 83% since 6 March, while government data suggested 20,331 patients were in hospital with Covid and 333,347 people have tested positive for the virus in the last seven days of 8 April.

Ms Cullen continued: ‘Free testing and high-quality PPE are essential for all nursing staff to protect themselves and clinically vulnerable people they care for.

‘Tight NHS and care budgets should not be asked to cover these costs – the Government must continue to show its support for healthcare workers.’

Last week, NHS Confederation also urged the Government to fund Covid testing of NHS staff, which it estimates is costing the NHS several hundred million pounds. NHS infection prevention control measures should also be reviewed and Covid public information campaigns improved, it said.

In a statement published on 9 April, Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation chief executive, said NHS leaders are also reporting a ‘clear disconnect’ between the Government’s plan and the ‘realities’ staff are facing on the ‘NHS front line’.

He said: ‘We urgently need stronger messages to the public on taking precautions to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread and getting booster vaccinations…

‘We also need proper Covid funding to continue until the virus is genuinely under control and we need a medium-term plan for reducing the risk of respiratory diseases including mask wearing and ventilation in public spaces.’

Although the universal provision of Covid testing stopped for the general population from 1 April in England, nurses and other healthcare workers have continued to receive Covid tests.

This comes after Lord Kamall, parliamentary under-secretary for the Department of Health and Social Care, revealed last week that a plan to ‘further clarify the role of general practice’ in supporting long Covid patients is due in spring 2022.

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