Health March 27, 2020
Ministerial Briefing: New testing alliance for frontline workers to start immediately

By Francesco Tamilia - Accountable Care Journal

Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, together with Dr Jenny Harries and Chief Executive of NHS England Simon Stevens, announced a substantial increase in the rate of testing for NHS frontline staff.

As of this morning, both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health and Care Secretary Matt Hancock are self-isolating after displaying mild symptoms of Covid-19 and testing positive. Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty has also announced he is self-isolating after experiencing symptoms on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Gove said that “this shows that the virus does not discriminate” and reassured the public that the Prime Minister is working hard to continue coordinating the Government’s response to Covid-19.

Encouraging the public to follow the Government’s advice on social distancing, the minister also confirmed that the Government is acting to strengthen the NHS in the face of this unprecedented crisis.

Following the Chancellor’s new financial support for self-employed announced yesterday, Mr Gove reported that today the Prime Minister has brought together businesses, universities and research institutes in a 'new alliance' to increase testing for health workers.

“Increasing our testing capacity is crucial in our response to our fight against coronavirus. We need to slow the spread of the virus and strengthen the NHS' ability to protect us all,” added Mr Gove.

Testing those in the 'central effort' 

"We're expanding the number of beds available for new patients, we're increasing the number of staff in our hospitals, and we're also investing in lifesaving equipment for those with severe symptoms, to give people the care they need when they need it most,” said Mr Gove.

This increase in testing will be particularly important for those who work on the NHS frontline.

Many doctors and nurses have complained over the past few days about the lack of testing which has left some health workers unable to go to work for fear of being contagious. To this end, Mr Gove said that NHS staff will receive 'antigen testing' to check whether they currently have the disease.

“These tests will be available for people on the frontline, starting immediately, with hundreds taking place by the end of the weekend, and dramatically scaling up next week,” he said.

As well as scaling up the Covid-19 testing, Mr Gove said that scientific analysis reports that the rate of infection has been doubling every three to four days. In addition, Mr Stevens confirmed that 33,000 hospital beds have now been “reconfigured” to treat Covid-19 patients and that he has given the go-ahead for the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham and the Central Convention Complex in Manchester to become Nightingale hospitals.

Mr Stevens also expanded upon the concerns of cancer patients, advising that clinical decisions for cancer patients about managing risk will be taken on a case by case basis. He also said that private hospitals, such as the Royal Marsden in London, are now being used to coordinate and treat cancer patients.

Over the last two weeks, 18,000 doctors and nurses returned to practice on the General Medical Council and the Nursing Medical Council registers to answer the call to arms.

ROUNDUP 27/03/2020: UK PM Boris Johnson has tested positive for Covid-19 

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Chancellor’s Briefing 26/03/2020: New support announced for the self-employed

PM Briefing 25/03/2020: Global shortage of testing equipment creates “bottleneck” for UK

PM's Briefing 23/03/2020: You must stay at home

PM’s Briefing 22/03/2020: New guidance issued to “shield” the most vulnerable

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