UK Politics

Coronavirus test shortage forcing thousands of GPs and nurses to stay off work


Thousands of GPs and nurses are being forced to stay off work as they cannot get tested for COVID-19, the professional body for general practitioners has said.

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has written to Dido Harding, head of the government's £10bn test-and-trace programme, warning that staff absences could hit the flu vaccination drive that ministers say is vital to stop the NHS becoming overwhelmed this winter.

Patient care will suffer because family doctors and practice nurses are having to isolate at home at the same time as the reopening of schools, universities and some workplaces – which is leading to more people seeking an appointment – it says.

Image: Professor Martin Marshall told Sky News that patient care would suffer because family doctors and practice nurses are having to isolate at home

Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the RCGP, told Sky News that test and trace logistics and capacity must "urgently improve" in order to help tackle COVID-19.

"GPs tell us that they are struggling to access tests for themselves and their teams. We simply cannot afford to have practice staff having to isolate, taking them out of frontline clinical practice," he said.


"A lack of access to testing is already impacting on capacity in general practice, as staff isolate whilst awaiting results, and the care that can be delivered to patients.

"We also want to see GPs having access to tests for patients who have a clinical need. Currently the only alternative is to refer them to Test and Trace.

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"This will help us to differentiate between COVID-19 and other potentially serious conditions."

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Image: Boris Johnson has pledged to dramatically increase capacity so that 500,000 tests a day can be carried out by the end of October

The disclosure around medical workers who are unable to get a test follows weeks of mounting concern over the number of teachers, parents of school-age children and NHS staff who have encountered problems – with some being told to go hundreds of miles to be checked.

Professor Marshall added: "If patients with symptoms of COVID-19 or people at risk of infection start attending GP appointments as a first port of call, it risks compromising infection control measures that have been put in place and has the potential to further spread the virus.

"Without sufficient capacity and resources, it would also risk overloading general pRead More – Source