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Covid-19: Tests for Key Workers

Volume 675: debated on Tuesday 5 May 2020

We expanded testing to all symptomatic essential workers and members of their households last month. As capacity continues to increase, we have been able to go further still, with all those who have symptoms and who have to leave home to go to work—and members of their households—now able to access a test. This is all part of the overall testing strategy, with the 100,000 tests that are now available.

Testing of staff and residents at care homes in my constituency is being delivered by referrals either through the Care Quality Commission or through the pilot partnership that has been set up between our hospitals trust and our clinical commissioning group. In relation to the CQC, will my right hon. Friend examine why test results are taking five to seven days to come back, rather than the estimated 72 hours? In relation to the pilot scheme, where tests are being delivered efficiently, why are care home managers given the names of residents who test positive but, for data protection reasons, not the names of staff who test positive? That is creating obvious uncertainty.

I am glad to see the roll-out of testing to care homes, and we are able to go further for both residents and staff. It is an incredibly important part of the response and one of the reasons why testing is so important. My hon. Friend raises two important issues of detail in the roll-out, and I will ensure that they are looked into.

We need to be doing all we can to protect our key workers, especially those in healthcare. I welcome and note what the Secretary of State said about testing, but has he considered the study from Imperial suggesting that weekly screening of healthcare workers—testing them every week whether symptomatic or not—reduces their contribution to transmission by around 25% to 33%? Will he look at testing all healthcare staff whether they have symptoms or not?

Yes. The shadow Secretary of State has asked questions in a responsible and reasonable way, and I welcome his support for the test, track and trace pilot on the Isle of Wight that we announced yesterday. His question is quite right; we have piloted the testing of asymptomatic NHS staff in 16 trusts across the country. Those pilots have been successful, and we will be rolling them out further.