The introduction of weekly covid tests for NHS staff in ‘high risk areas’ will mean other groups missing out or waiting longer, well-placed sources have told HSJ.
There is also understood to be a standoff between NHS England and Test and Trace over the regular testing of asymptomatic staff, which was announced for the North of England on Monday.
NHS trust labs don’t have enough capacity to test all their staff; and there is not enough spare in “pillar two” commercial labs to carry out hundreds of thousands of additional tests. National bodies are said to be in disagreement over who should do it.
NHSE believes they should be provided by T&T, and T&T says NHS labs should expand their capacity to carry them out themselves, HSJ has been told.
A senior source involved in the testing programme said there would have to be “trade-offs” for T&T to meet the new NHS demand, with supply having to be cut for others who want tests — mostly the general population, or care home staff.
At present the NHS has agreed to carry out 100,000 daily tests by the end of the month, as part of the T&T’s overall 500,000 target. It has been encouraged to do more by T&T, but any expansions may face shortages of equipment and supplies such as reagents, as well as staff and space.
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Source: HSJ, 13 October 2020