BMA Cymru Wales is supporting calls for all NHS frontline workers to be regularly tested for Covid-19, whether they are showing symptoms or not.
Leading doctors in Wales argue that as plans are discussed for the resumption of services, staff across the NHS should have frequent tests, to ensure the safety of patients and healthcare workers.
Doctors continue to put themselves at risk, regularly working in close contact with Covid-19 patients, and whilst good hand hygiene, the use of PPE and ‘respiratory etiquette’ are essential, it’s important that those who are caring for the most vulnerable in the community are tested themselves, to prevent further spread to patients, with potentially grave consequences.
Dr Phil Banfield, Chair BMA’s Welsh Consultants Committee, said:
"We support regular testing for all NHS frontline workers, in particular those who are asymptomatic and are not tested under current rules. At the beginning of the pandemic, The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the response to the pandemic needed ‘testing, testing, testing’, and this remains the case.”
He added: “If we want ‘normal’ NHS services to resume, this is a sensible approach to ensure doctors can continue to offer the best care, whilst ensuring the safety of themselves and their patients. As people are brought back to ‘Covid light’ areas for treatment, unless asymptomatic staff are also tested, there’s the chance they could pass the virus onto patients.
“Testing needs to be frequent and regular to minimise further spread following a potentially false negative result. We must also continue to take precautions when a negative result is received.
“Whilst there’s uncertainly if there will be a second wave of Covid-19, the best way to mitigate against this is to start with our healthcare workers, who are dealing with patients, in close contact, day in, day out.
Dr Banfield also called for results to be returned more quickly and for antibody testing for frontline workers.
He said: "Delays in test results being returned need to be addressed urgently, along with antibody testing, even if this is a one-off occurrence. We need to know that doctors who are in close contact with patients are not carrying and spreading the virus unnecessarily, whilst getting doctors back into work as safely as possible after self-isolating.
“We want to see ‘real-time’ data on the number of tests being carried out at a much more local level, to enable the public and profession to have confidence that their NHS is safe to access. This will enable those with the greatest clinical priority to receive the care they urgently need.”
Notes to editors
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