Lack of tests for frontline staff branded “national scandal” as many self-isolate

Elliot Chappell

The lack of coronavirus testing and personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare staff has been branded a “national scandal” as an increasing number of workers are having to self-isolate.

In a call to government this afternoon, trade union GMB highlighted that the lack of testing could potentially mean that thousands of key workers are having to stay at home unnecessarily when sorely needed.

It comes after the Royal College of Physicians revealed that one in four NHS doctors has been signed off from work due to illness or because they are self-isolating, as reported by The Guardian.

GMB national officer Rachel Harrison commented: “The lack of protective equipment for our frontline workers is nothing short of a national crisis and it’s going to bring services to the brink.

“We’ve got thousands of workers self-isolating. Some will have the virus after working without proper protective gear, others might just have a cold and could be at work but without testing there is no way to know – it’s creating a capacity issue and putting more people at risk.”

GMB has reported that there are currently over 4,100 ambulance workers across NHS Trusts throughout the country who are self-isolating after displaying symptoms of the virus.

The union has reported that some of its members who are ambulance workers say they have had no access to PPE – even while being sent to treat patients suspected of having contracted Covid-19.

Harrison added: “Out of date masks are being issued as standard, with stickers placed over expiry dates as if somehow that means the equipment is safe to use.

“Our members are trained in how to be safe, they know that they’re being put at risk but are worried too that lack of protection means they’re taking this virus home to their loved ones. That’s just plain wrong.

“The government need to act now to get PPE to the front line, and immediately start testing frontline staff as a priority. GMB is demanding PPE for all staff who need it and testing for all staff.”

On the number of doctors self-isolating, RCP head Andrew Goddard said: “This is really impacting a lot in emergency departments and London is in a much worse position than elsewhere at the moment, but it will come to other places. Birmingham is also struggling.”

Goddard went on to say that it’s unclear whether this pressure on the NHS would ease as testing of staff increased and isolation periods of those currently absent end.

A total of 19,522 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in the UK since the outbreak of the virus, but the true figure is estimated to be much higher. There have been 1,228 recorded deaths so far.

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