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Written Statements

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2020

Written Statements

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Health and Social Care

Covid-19: Testing

Reducing healthcare-associated covid-19 infection is a top priority. Today, the NHS has set out plans for testing of NHS staff. This includes continuing to prioritise testing of all NHS staff with symptoms, asymptomatic regular testing of staff in situations where there is an incident, outbreak or high prevalence and regular surveillance testing across all staff. Under the risk-based approach advised by clinical experts, we are continually reviewing clinical evidence to ensure regular testing of asymptomatic staff is undertaken where appropriate. The CMO’s advice is that this is currently best done through a survey, which monitors prevalence in NHS staff. This survey, which will be expanded over the coming months, helps us to determine where wider asymptomatic staff testing is needed. Clinical advice is to focus intensive asymptomatic testing in those areas or settings identified to have high prevalence. This dynamic approach which responds to risk is essential as when prevalence is very low, the risk of misleading results is higher and this can undermine the value of testing. We will continue to keep clinical advice under review.

I also want to clarify a point on the predominant reason for the minority of positive cases that do not go into the NHS Test and Trace scheme. On June 17 I set out that they are largely in-patients in hospital and therefore testing and tracing in the normal sense does not apply. Testing and tracing is different for hospital in-patients than for the general public, as contact tracing is usually done by the hospital rather than by NHS Test and Trace contact tracers. Local hospital infection control teams are often best placed to do the contact tracing for inpatients as these individuals may not be in a position to be able to communicate their contacts and hospitals will have a clear list of patients on wards, staff and shift patterns. This is standard practice for other infections. The data from these hospital in-patients do enter the NHS Test and Trace system. Positive cases who are not contacted by the contact tracing system are either those who do not respond to repeated attempts to make contact (through phone, SMS and email contacts) or for whom NHS Test and Trace has incorrect contact details. Further data will be set out by NHS test and trace tomorrow in the normal way.


Housing, Communities and Local Government

Rough Sleeping

Today I am announcing a further £105 million for local authorities to enable them to support and accommodate rough sleepers.

At the outset of the covid-19 pandemic, the Government took quick action to accommodate rough sleepers and those in communal shelters, giving them the chance to self-isolate. This action was supported by councils, charities, faith groups, public sector partners and businesses. I want to put on record my thanks to everyone who has worked tirelessly to deliver this—this action has undoubtedly saved countless lives. These efforts and the action taken to support people at risk of becoming homeless during the pandemic has resulted in 15,000 vulnerable people being housed in emergency accommodation, including hotels.

Now is the time to help local authorities and the vulnerable people housed during the pandemic with what comes next. Local authorities, working with my Department, have already been assessing the needs of each individual currently in emergency accommodation. For the first time ever, we know who these vulnerable people are and where they are—allowing us to take a more personal and sophisticated look at each of their needs. The additional funding, which is available in this financial year, will allow local authorities to provide appropriate accommodation and support for the next steps, as we help these individuals to put their lives on a more stable footing. It will fund a wide range of measures, including: short-term accommodation before moves into safe, long-term homes can be arranged; moves into the private rental sector; and assistance to secure training and employment. This sustained support is vital to ensure progress is maintained as people move out of emergency accommodation.

This investment comes on top of significant funding we have already provided this year, including plans I announced last month alongside Dame Louise Casey to provide 6,000 supported homes for vulnerable rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic. These homes will be held as a national asset with the specific purpose of providing move-on accommodation to rough sleepers and former rough sleepers.

The Government also understand the need to support people with complex and underlying issues which may be behind their rough sleeping. That is why I am also pleased to announce that a further £16 million in funding will be made available this financial year—bringing the total to £23 million—to tackle the substance dependence treatment needs of rough sleepers. This will help strengthen people’s engagement with substance dependence services while in emergency accommodation as they move into safer, long-term accommodation. It will also help people into treatment services and support them as they recover, to prevent a return to the streets.

Our manifesto set out our bold ambition to end rough sleeping within this Parliament and the measures I have announced today are a significant step towards that.