31 Mar 2020
HM Government in England have partnered with companies including Boots and Amazon, to add capacity to test frontline NHS staff for coronavirus. This will help determine if NHS staff who are self-isolating are able to return back to work, which will have a positive effect on the current workforce.
Three hub laboratories are to be set up around the country, which will process samples; the first of which will be taken from frontline health workers. The service will be free, and will start with Boots who will be offering testing at their headquarters through a “drive-through” site.
Initially, these tests will not be available for the general public, nor will they be available to buy over the counter or online. Further details around when they will be available for community pharmacy staff will be provided by HM Government and PSNC.
Although the analysis of reliability of home testing kits is on the agenda for PHE, the advice from PHE to not use these rapid self-testing kits still stands. There is no published evidence about the suitability of these tests for diagnosing Covid-19 infection in a community setting.
In Scotland, NHS Boards are already providing Covid-19 testing, prioritising in line with the Scottish Government guidance 24/3/30. Each NHS board has their own procedure for access to testing which in the main can be accessed by community pharmacy to support return to work for asymptomatic staff who are self-isolating. For local information in Scotland check your NHS Board advice.
In Northern Ireland testing is currently limited to patients who are being admitted to hospital and some health care workers. The CPO has recognised that there are significant challenges facing the service if we cannot ensure sufficient staff welfare. There has been an increase in staff absences and plans are currently being developed for pharmacy team members, as frontline healthcare staff, to receive equal access to testing as for other primary healthcare workers.
Useful link: HM Government