York NHS trust shows government advice precludes testing staff – trust hoped to have ‘limited capacity’ for testing ‘by exception’
A leaked email has received the dire state of NHS readiness for the coronavirus crisis under the lack of preparation by Boris Johnson’s government.
The email, sent by the Medical Director for Professional Standards of York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – which manages eight hospitals over an area of 3,400 square miles and including Scarborough, Bridlington and Hull – makes grim reading.
- that the government has told hospitals not to test staff for the coronavirus, in spite of the continuing lack of personal protective equipment
- the national inadequacy of testing capacity
- that Boris Johnson’s claim that testing capacity was ten thousand rising 25,000 is in reality 7,000 rising to just 15,000
- that the trust’s entire network had no testing capacity whatever – and only hoped to have capacity from this week
- that its outsourced testing to Leeds is experiencing ‘significant delays’ that are expected to get worse
- that even if capacity comes online, the trust only expects to have ‘limited capacity’ that might allow it to test critical front-line staff ‘by exception’
- that trusts hope to test only staff already ill or self-isolating and in order to get them back to work – and not to prevent ‘well’ infected staff spreading the virus to their colleagues and patients
This last point is mirrored across the entire NHS in England, as leading medics revealed via the SKWAWKBOX earlier this week – in spite of the clear medical imperative to test all staff to prsotect health workers and patients.
The full email reads:
The SKWAWKBOX asked the Department of Health to confirm the UK’s current testing capacity and its expected imminent capacity – and how quickly the government intends to implement testing for all front-line staff.
No response was received, in spite of a promised deadline and a number of calls to chase an answer.
Former BMA deputy chair Dr Kailash Chand OBE wrote in the SKWAWKBOX on Tuesday:
Staff are the most valuable asset of our NHS. They will react with energy and flexibility, but urgent measures must be taken to support their health and wellbeing – for the benefit of all of us.
But leading doctors told the SKWAWKBOX that the decision to focus testing on patients and not on staff was the opposite of good practice – and is forcing doctors and nurses to inadvertently harm their patients by unwittingly infecting them:
it is unnecessary to swab symptomatic patients, since they should automatically be isolated, and treated as required.”
What [testing] capacity the UK has should be being used to make sure that front-line staff who have to deal with the infirm and elderly have regular tests so that they can know as far as possible that they are not spreading the disease to vulnerable groups.
The current UK strategy is completely at odds with this, whilst posing as based on “scientific” advice. Basically the government is deceiving the public by not admitting that their failing strategy that it is adopting, far from being the result of expert advice, is due to its own ill-preparedness.
As a result, the NHS will be overwhelmed with cases needing respiratory support, a significant percentage of whom will have acquired the infection from health or social care staff.
The doctors’ assessment has been tragically confirmed by the leaked email from a beleaguered NHS hospital.
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