Staff working on temporary contracts or outside the NHS, such as in social care, had more difficulty finding out if they had Covid-19 before the Government expanded its testing programme.
This is according to a Royal College of Nursing survey of more than 22,000 health and care workers carried out between 24 April and 28 April, which found 79% of those working outside the NHS had not been offered a test compared to 75% in the health service.
The survey was carried out before health secretary Matt Hancock announced on 28 April he was upping the number of home testing kits from 5,000 a day to 25,000 a day that week. Mr Hancock also announced on that day he planned for up to 70 mobile testing units, manned by the army, to travel to areas where there was the ‘highest demand’ for testing.
Seventy-six per cent of all respondents said they had not been offered a test, which rose to 86% for temporary staff, and 81% for those working in prison and police custody.
Chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair said today: ‘We know that additional measures have been recently put in place to improve access to testing and will monitoring 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 report stated: ‘[This discrepancy between testing rates] could indicate that communication systems outside of the NHS are not able to effectively convey messages to frontline staff.
‘There is still a significant proportion of staff who do not know how to access testing if they have not been offered it by their employer.’
In addition, of those who had said they had not been offered a test, nearly half (44%) said they did not know how to access testing. This rose to around half in care homes and prisons, and to 60% for temporary staff.
The Government announced last week that coronavirus tests will be available to all NHS and social care staff even if they do not have symptoms.
In addition, it was revealed last week that the families of all frontline NHS staff who die with Covid-19 will receive a one-off £60,000 payment.
Nursing in Practice has published a tribute page to primary and community care nurses, and midwives, who have sadly died with Covid-19.