Covid testing shortage could have a ‘devastating’ impact on patient care, doctors warn

Leading doctors have warned that Britain’s shortage of Covid swabs could have a “devastating” impact on hospital care.

Thousands of people are struggling to get access to the lateral flow tests, which ran out again yesterday. Supply problems are expected to persist for another two weeks, with a negative impact on NHS staff and other vital parts of the economy.

The president of the British Medical Association, Dr Chand Nagpol, warned that the current system to ensure doctors and paramedics have access to vital equipment was “not working”.

He warned that thousands of medical workers are unable to turn up in shifts because they cannot be tested “at a time of acute manpower shortages and winter stress”. He called on ministers to prioritize NHS staff for access to swabs.

Demand for Covid swabs has surged amid record-breaking cases, calls for swabs to be taken before heading to New Year’s Eve celebrations and after the government changed self-isolation rules to allow Britons to leave three days early if they tested negative on the sixth and seventh days. .

Sajid Javid warned in a letter to MPs that supplies are likely to be “limited” for another two weeks due to “high demand” for the tests.

The health minister has hinted that high-risk patients, such as residents of care homes and staff, will be prioritized for lateral flow test deliveries. He also alleged that Britain tripled its requests for lateral flow tests in January and February to keep pace with demand.

It comes as the NHS begins building Nightingale Hospitals in preparation for the influx of hospital cases. This drive forms part of the new NHS ‘war base’ to tackle the Omicron wave, which is already starting to put more pressure on hospitals.

Excess spill sites – which can also be set up in canteens and gyms if needed in the coming weeks – will be equipped with beds and machines for patients who still need minor treatment.

Health Minister Sajid Javid warned another two weeks of interruption in testing supplies

Dr Chand Nagpol, president of the British Medical Association, warned that NHS staff are unable to perform lateral flow tests. Health Minister Sajid Javid (R) said there could be another two weeks of outage testing of supplies

The daily admission rate for Covid in London has risen again, with 456 newly infected patients placed on wards on December 28.  This is the second day in a row that entries have been made above the 400-per-day threshold which government advisers have warned could lead to a nationwide intervention.

The daily admission rate for Covid in London has risen again, with 456 newly infected patients placed on wards on December 28. This is the second day in a row that entries have been made above the 400-per-day threshold which government advisers have warned could lead to a nationwide intervention.

Dr Nagpol said: “The inability to get the tests means staff may not be legally allowed to work and at a time of acute workforce shortages and winter stress this could be devastating to the care that can be provided across the NHS.

“For example, if a major worker is isolating and needs to do a negative PCR or lateral flow test on day six and seven, and he can’t reach them, he can’t go back to work.”

He added: “There is no doubt that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has had a significant impact on the demand for lateral flow test kits and PCR tests, however it is critical that the promised new supplies of kits are made available to key workers such as health and social. Care staff as a priority.

The board distributes lateral flow tests outside Nando’s

Yesterday the board took matters into its own hands and brought the lateral flow tests out of the Nando’s.

The national system for supplying Covid swabs has faced shortages for weeks – with many Britons left unable to get swabs.

But the residents of Slough were able to get swabs yesterday thanks to their local authority.

The council signed a deal with private testing provider Solutions 4 Health to run tests on people who are asymptomatic for the virus.

A pickup truck from the company was photographed outside Nando’s downtown yesterday taking out swabs.

Packs of seven and 20 swabs were distributed to residents, some reportedly leaving with shopping bags full of checks.

The board first signed a Covid testing deal with Solutions 4 Health in January.

Current rules allow people to leave self-isolation three days earlier, if they test negative on the sixth and seventh days of quarantine.

Vaccinated people who are in close contact with positive cases are also required to take lateral flow tests every day for ten days to avoid quarantine.

Guidance was updated this month to allow NHS staff who live with someone with the virus to enter work provided they test negative with a side flow each day.

Hospitals across the country are currently grappling with a staff shortage, with thousands self-isolating due to the virus.

It is feared that the lack of Covid swabs will exacerbate the problem and lead to many unnecessarily having to spend time away from their frontline roles.

NHS England figures published today show that the number of NHS hospital staff in England absent due to Covid has nearly doubled since the start of the month.

This included 24,632 NHS staff on December 26, up 31 per cent from 18,829 the previous week and almost double the number at the start of the month (12,508).

Across hospital trusts, in the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, 1,144 staff missed Covid on December 26, up from 699 previously, while the University of Manchester trust reported 835 absences, up from 548.

Other funds with sharp jumps in coronavirus-related absences include University Hospitals of Leicester (522 on December 26, up from 356 in the previous week), University of Nottingham (791, up from 658) and Leeds Teaching Hospitals (502, up from 364).

The increased absences come against the background of the increase in the number of Covid patients in hospitals, which yesterday exceeded 11,000 patients in England for the first time since early February.

Meanwhile, the NHS has started building eight ‘Nightingale’ small hospitals in preparation for the expected influx of Covid patients.

Each will be able to care for up to 100 Covid patients after a stay in intensive care, but questions have already been asked about how to staff the units.

Javid told MPs that the massive demand for swabs will likely see supplies limited over the next two weeks.

He wrote: “In light of the massive demand for LFDs seen over the past three weeks, we anticipate that we will need to constrain the system at certain points over the next two weeks to manage supply throughout each day, with new segments of supply being released regularly throughout each day.

Nurses, truck drivers and government officials could be prioritized for COVID swabs in the new year as part of plans to prevent a return to work in the chaos.

Ministers are also considering whether to free up capacity by removing the requirement for people who get a positive lateral flow test to also get a PCR, The Telegraph reports.

Currently around 1 million lateral flow tests are performed daily in England, official figures show, and more than 600,000 PCR swabs are analyzed every 24 hours.

This compares to a supply of about 900,000 lateral fluxes per day and up to 700,000 PCR every 24 hours.

St George's Hospital, South London: Construction workers have begun construction of a makeshift field hospital on the grounds of St George's Hospital in Tooting today

St George’s Hospital, South London: Construction workers have begun construction of a makeshift field hospital on the grounds of St George’s Hospital in Tooting today

William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent: Pictured above, construction work begins at William Harvey Hospital

William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent: Pictured above, construction work begins on the William Harvey ‘Mini Nightingale’ Hospital, located in the site parking lot.

The above shows where to create

The above shows where the new eight “Little Nightingales” will be established in England. These will aim to treat 100 Covid patients after a stay in intensive care, and will be on hospital sites to ensure they can be provided with the right staff. The former nightingale couldn’t get enough nurses

Professor Azim Majeed, a primary care and public health expert at Imperial College London, told the Guardian the government was “partly to blame” for the lack of testing.

He said: “It has become very clear that there is nowhere near enough for lateral flow tests for Covid in England to allow the government’s policy of their indiscriminate use.”

He called on ministers to publish “clear guidance… on which groups should receive priority testing and the frequency of testing.”

It comes as the NHS begins building Nightingale Hospitals in preparation for the influx of hospital cases. Work has already begun at St George’s Hospital in South London and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent.

Excess spill sites – which can also be set up in canteens and gyms if needed in the coming weeks – will be equipped with beds and machines for patients who still need minor treatment.

This drive forms part of the new NHS ‘war base’ to counter the Omicron wave, which is beginning to put more pressure on hospitals.

But questions have already been asked about how the units will be managed amid escalating absenteeism rates among health services along with more than 100,000 job vacancies before Covid struck.

Chris Hobson, chief executive of NHS Providers – which represents HMOs in hospitals – said yesterday that recruiting staff to temporary wards is a ‘huge challenge’ and that ‘you can’t just increase the number of staff needed to staff these beds. Thin air.

He added, however, that having the facilities on existing hospital grounds “increases the capacity of the NHS to meet this challenge” and that he expected volunteers to be called upon if the sites were needed to be used.

Meanwhile, Pat Cullen, from the Royal College of Nursing, cautioned that this could mean nursing resources are “spread out”. She said she had “no idea” how to staff the centers.

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