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Testing of NHS and Social Care Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 4:31 pm, 24th June 2020

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend Jo Churchill, says to me that the hon. Lady is a very powerful campaigner on this subject. For that and for other conditions, people must absolutely come forward and get the help that they need. The NHS is there for that reason.

My third and final point is on testing. Testing for the virus and tracing how it spreads is critical to containing it as we ramp up services and ease the national lockdown. This is especially important for our NHS and social care system so that we can protect our colleagues and the people they look after. We have already built an immense national infrastructure for testing. Back in March, we had the capacity across all our testing channels to conduct fewer than 2,000 tests a day, whereas yesterday we saw more than 237,000 tests carried out. As we have built capacity, we have prioritised those in need. We started with the patients who needed a test, then expanded to NHS and social care workers and their families, then to other critical key workers, before we expanded to the wider community.

Today NHS England and NHS Improvement have written to NHS trusts and foundation trusts to outline further steps that must be taken in the NHS, including continuing to prioritise testing for all NHS staff with symptoms; extra testing of non-symptomatic staff when there is an incident, outbreak or high prevalence; and regular surveillance testing of staff which, on the advice of our chief medical officer, will be fortnightly or more frequently, depending on local or national epidemiology.