Analysis

Govt starts testing NHS staff – in a tiny way – and gets it completely wrong by ignoring medics

Tories wasting what tests are available by ignoring calls from front-line staff to test even asymptomatic staff and that this is more important than testing critically-ill patients

The government is starting this weekend to test front-line NHS staff after weeks of desperate calls from those in the firing line of the coronavirus to do so – and is squandering its testing capacity by ignoring the advice of medics on who should be tested. Until now, hospitals have been told not to test staff.

But the numbers to be tested are tiny – and the tests will be carried out on the wrong people.

The programme will test only NHS staff who are showing symptoms of the virus or are living with people who are showing symptoms – and testing of seriously-ill patients will continue, meaning that only a fraction of the small testing capacity will be available for NHS staff.

Michael Gove said on Friday that ‘hundreds’ of tests would be made available for testing staff this weekend. The English NHS has around 640,000 clinical staff, according to the latest NHS England figures.

But senior medics and public health experts slammed the squandering of testing capacity even before the government started its latest misdirected and woefully under-resourced programme – saying that staff and patients with symptoms must be assumed to have the virus when there are not enough tests to go round – because the biggest risk to staff and patients is infection spread from staff who do not yet have symptoms.

One expert said last weekend:

This isn’t just about the people who come in showing coronavirus symptoms. Any patient coming in, for example to A&E, could be infected and not know it – and pass it onto the staff they interact with. Or the doctor or nurse treating them could have it and pass it onto patients.

It’s an absolute nightmare and the government is showing little or no sign of doing anything meaningful about it.

Another said the UK’s tactic of testing only admitted sufferers was a complete misdirection of resources:

50 to 75% of those infected are asymptomatic, but they are a formidable source of contagion…

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 government’s complete incompetence in not building up testing capacity before the catastrophe struck has meant that the UK still does not have the ability to perform even the 10,000 tests a day that Boris Johnson claimed were being done ten days ago. The NHS hopes to have that number in place by the end of March.

But even the 25,000 tests a day the government is targeting is utterly inadequate for the many hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses and other front-line staff pouring heart and soul into the battle for the lives and health of coronavirus victims.

Those heroes need to be tested regularly to ensure their health – and to stop them inadvertently infecting those they treat.

When the testing capacity is so limited, those who are showing symptoms – patients and staff alike – must be assumed to have the disease and isolated and cared for accordingly.

To test them is to waste a limited resource when the biggest danger that is not being checked, let alone controlled, is the spread of the virus by people not yet showing symptoms.

Yet again the Tories are doing far too little, far too late – and then doing exactly the wrong thing in the hope of looking like they are doing something without putting in the effort and resources needed to tackle the actual problem.

And this reckless decision to ignore medical experts for the sake of appearances will directly cost lives.

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16 comments

  1. They could not arganise a proverbial pi**-up in a brewery… What a farce. They also proven again that they are not listening to doctors and nurses. Time the suits sat down, listened and acted on the advice from those dealing with covet-19 directly.

    1. The tories can organise, in this case they just don’t want to. They are pursuing by stealth a policy of herd immunity.
      Mainly elderly and disabled would died, so it would result in savings to the government budget: less pensions, less welfare benefits to pay that could diverted somewhere else.
      In same cases, they will also leave behind, empty good quality public housing, that promptly would become available to working families in the housing list.
      The Tories have a huge parliamentary majority and no General Election in the horizon for at least four years.
      From a Tory point of view, what isn’t to like?

  2. Pilfered wealth from blood sweat & tears of workers who keep the world running, gilds Tory & Republican incompetence, and dim brained narrow-minded obsession. Their obsession is the use of every situation to accumulate more wealth for a few who already have more than enough for several lifetimes. Do not expect this Covid-19 to change them. It won’t. Their wanton greed and heartless has been inbred for hundreds of years. Do you know, the UK was one of the first countries to develop a test for Covid-19❓❓❓ Yet the UK under Boris Johnson and his Tory chums have amongst the lowest rate of testing internationally. Charles, Mrs Parker Bowles, Johnson č mild symptoms tested but not doctors, nurses, paramedics, refuse collectors, social care staff. So, as i said, wanton Tory Blue and Red callous greed. Infinite heartlessness, inbred over generations

  3. The suits
    Have stood down,
    Given themselves a break from the frontline
    Basic GE tactics
    Plus lie through your back teeth, followed by bullshit and bluster
    With full support from MSM, toilet papers and red Tories

  4. Well said the Skwawkbox, and, lamentably, probably ONLY said (at least in this direct and challenging way) by The Skwawkbox. We appear to have entered as strange parallel universe where there is a tacit general acceptance right across the media, that the government should not be condemned for its incompetence, even though it is costing lives, and man many more to come. Sadly, Labour is, incredibly, leading the retreat.

  5. Signpostwindchimes…..You definitely got the inbred right but I also worry about the public school education and all the buggering about in the dormitory does to fragile young minds and bodys….ITs a jungle out there for the annointed?

  6. 640,000 clinical staff in the English NHS. “Hundreds of tests” being started (‘piloted’) this weekend. Not only ‘too little, too late‘, something altogether more dangerous

    Testing – the faster we identify cases, isolate them and impede infestation, the better we will manage the pandemic and the more lives we will save.

    The Conservatives have no plan other than repeating the GE2019 strategy, ‘Get brexit done’, ‘stay home, save the nhs,’

    Point this out and you are accused of “politicising” the Government’s inept performance and the pandemic.

    Is this not the ruling elite at its most frightened AND its most dangerous?

  7. The excuses of this damn government for their failures are so transparent, and they are still being protected by the useless right wing media, particularly the BBC. Bozo the dangerous clown doesn’t want tests done even if he had bothered to have enough test kits/facilities available, because he wants to hide his Incapability and the true number of infections.

    To anyone who still wants Trident and other WMD, get your priorities right and use the cash to rebuild the NHS from the ground up into an indisputable world leader.

    1. Your last paragraph is spot on, JackT: A properly resourced NHS and social care system delivers better national security than the proposed (inevitable?) Trident spend.

  8. If your not testing and tracing you have no clue on numbers
    This is an academic exercise, herd immunity followed by vaccination will get us through this one
    Lessons have to be learned
    Pound to a penny the fuckers will drive through No Deal Brexit
    Worry more about the forthcoming financial pandemic

  9. So a knock at the door ,an hour ago means we have lost our german/England born doctor who has just told us that he and his young family are to be evacuated from here in Cambodia by the German government who want their nationals home.He was sad to leave but the flight from Phnom Penh Cambodia was too good a chance to miss and it was free.Hes extremely pleased that he obtained a German passport and is appalled at the treatment and denial of responsibility by the British non government of their Citizens at home and abroad.. Depressing to see so many expat friends leave ,but I and the rest of the family feel safer here Off Grid and secluded outside of the main Citys.

  10. Government advice to ASDA Please help the virus , have customers queue outside in all weathers … Hmmm certainly help catch colds and flue

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