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Coronavirus: NHS staff off work due to testing shortages, say bosses

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A lack of coronavirus tests for NHS staff is leading to staff absences and services being put at risk, hospital bosses have warned.

NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said staff are having to self-isolate rather than work because they cannot get tests for themselves or family members. It comes after widespread reports of people struggling to get tested.

The home secretary defended the system, saying capacity was increasing.

The government's testing system - part of its test, track and trace operation which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised would be "world-beating" - has faced criticism in recent weeks. An increase in demand for coronavirus tests has led to local shortages - with some people being directed to test sites hundreds of miles from their homes.

One doctor working in a coronavirus hotspot said she applied for a test for herself and her partner after they developed coughs and fevers. After refreshing the website for five hours, she managed to get an appointment but on arrival was told no booking had been made.

She had taken screenshots of a confirmation code but was not sent a QR code to scan. "I showed the screenshots but I was told that the appointments weren't happening," she said.

"I have to say I burst into tears. I was meant to be seeing patients and I feel guilty."

Dr Rachel Ward, a GP in Newbury, told BBC Breakfast she was seeing a lot of patients who were struggling to get tests, saying a lot of families were "at the end of their tether" as it was "very stressful when you are faced with two weeks off work".

She said if the staff at her practice were unable to get tests and had to self-isolate it would have a "huge impact" on patients as some of their healthcare workers are booked in to administer 100 flu jabs in a day.

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Source: BBC News, 14 September 2020

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