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MPs say compelling case for weekly testing of NHS staff to stop NHS becoming a Covid-only service in second wave

1 October 2020

The Report Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond catalogues the impact and unprecedented challenge caused by Covid-19 to the provision of essential services. 

The Health and Social Care Committee is calling for urgent action to assess and tackle a backlog of appointments and an unknown patient demand for all health services, specifically across cancer treatments, mental health services, dentistry services, GP services and elective surgery. MPs say a compelling case has been made for the nationwide routine testing of all NHS staff and they are yet to understand why it cannot be introduced.

The inquiry, launched in April, considered the provision of essential health and care services both during and after the pandemic and how the resulting pent-up demand for services would be managed and met.

Representatives of the Royal Colleges, NHS Providers, the NHS Confederation, health think tanks, patients and patient groups, the Chief Executive of the NHS and other senior NHS leaders were among those who gave evidence. Members of the Committee pay tribute to frontline NHS and care staff who lost their lives to coronavirus and their bereaved families.

Chair's comments 

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP said:

“We are proud of the heroic contribution made by frontline NHS and care staff during this pandemic, which has saved many lives. Thanks to their efforts not a single coronavirus patient has been denied an intensive care bed or ventilator unlike in other countries.

“However the pandemic has also massively impacted normal NHS services, something that could have been mitigated with earlier infection control measures in hospitals and clearer communication to patients whose care was disrupted. Weekly testing of NHS staff has been repeatedly promised in hotspot areas - but is still not being delivered. Failure to do so creates a real risk that the NHS will be forced to retreat into being a largely Covid-only service during a second spike.

"We've heard of severe disruption to services, especially cancer, and here we could be looking at tens of thousands avoidable deaths within a year. If we’re to avoid this going forward it is time to give as much priority to avoiding harm and death caused by the interruption of normal NHS services and introduce mass testing for all NHS staff. Today we set out these and other steps the government and NHS leaders must take to manage services through a second wave."

Further information

Image: PA