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GP practice staff will get rapid access to coronavirus tests, NHS England says

by Costanza Pearce
17 April 2020

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GPs and practice staff should now be able to get tested for Covid-19 ‘very rapidly’, NHS England has said.

Its primary care medical director said this comes as testing capacity has ‘increased quite impressively’.

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock said the increased testing capacity meant household members of NHS staff would also get access to tests, so that staff members did not need to isolate with them if they develop Covid-19 symptoms.

Speaking in a live webinar last night, NHS England medical director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani told GPs: ‘Now all regions have some sort of testing set up in place and we’re building on that rapidly, so you should be able to access testing very rapidly.

’There’s a short prioritisation but broadly general practice staff – so it’s the whole team – and community pharmacy staff will be able to access that testing, recognising its key importance.’

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Management in Practice’s sister publication, Pulse, that there are ‘large numbers’ of the GP workforce at home who are ‘well but self-isolating’ because either they or those they live with have had some coronavirus symptoms.

But the health secretary has signalled this should soon be remedied via testing.

He told the House of Commons health and social care committee earlier today: ‘We’ve now made testing available to everybody who needs it across the NHS. So all staff who are symptomatic now are able to get tests.

‘The good news is that we’re able to expand – because we’re expanding the capacity to test, therefore we’re able to expand the number of tests that are done not only on, for instance, patients going to care homes as I announced earlier this week, but also for NHS staff and members of their households, if the member of the NHS staff is isolating because of household isolation.’

More than 50,000 NHS staff have now been tested for coronavirus, he added.

The current 22 ‘drive-through’ testing centres – expanding to 50 – have been ‘big policy successes’, Mr Hancock said, and will be followed by ‘mobile units’ and home-testing kits ‘once the technology is good enough’.

Earlier this month, NHS England said that a number of coronavirus tests were ‘being saved’ for GP practices and that testing was being organised at a ‘regional and system level’.

However the promises come as NHS England had previously told GPs they would start getting access to tests from the first week of April.