Patient safety

19.05.20

NHS Providers: Improvements still needed to testing regime

Following a statement from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, praising England’s testing capabilities and extending the offer of coronavirus testing to anyone over the age of 5 with symptoms, NHS Providers Chief Executive Chris Hopson warned there are still improvements to be made.

Mr Hopson said: “While the testing regime in England is improving, it is still a very long way from being fit for purpose. NHS trusts report they are in a patchwork quilt with far too many gaps. While the NHS has grown its capacity as fast as possible, we still have lots of trusts experiencing delays in getting test results back from external testing capacity.

"These tests are meant to be returned within 48 hours but one trust told us today that their average test return was five days, with the longest being 13 days.

“While the NHS has grown its capacity as fast as possible, we still have lots of trusts experiencing delays in getting test results back from external testing capacity. The government constantly talks about national capacity. But completing a patchwork quilt requires individual gaps to be quickly identified and filled.

"The NHS needs to play its part. But given how reliant many trusts are on external testing capacity, they need the government and rest of the government-controlled testing regime to play their role.

READ MORE: Government launches new portal for care home coronavirus testing

READ MORE: NHS Confederation welcomes testing but stresses importance of access

"There are three other gaps.

"If the NHS is to safely restart the full range of services, trusts need to know how and when all hospital bound patients, for example those requiring elective surgery, and all staff treating those patients, can be tested.

“The NHS needs to play its part. But given how reliant many trusts are on external testing capacity, they need the government and rest of the government-controlled testing regime to play their role.

"NHS organisations are still unclear about what role they will play in the general population test, track and trace approach that will accompany lockdown easing that has already started. And we are still waiting for a proper, updated, new testing strategy so we can see where we are going, how fast capacity is going to be built and who will be prioritised. Trusts are getting increasingly frustrated by announcements expanding who can be tested whilst promises about priority for NHS patients and staff go unfulfilled.

"The gap between the tone struck in the public statements and the reality on the ground is still painfully wide and needs to be closed quickly."

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