Hospital Dr News

COVID-19 testing delays continue to keep doctors away from work

Delays in accessing COVID-19 tests continue to cause disruption among hospital doctor teams.

A survey of members by the Royal College of Physicians has found that few doctors are off work, but for 40% of those who are it is because they are self-isolating while awaiting a test for someone in their household.

Among those doctors who have been able to access testing for themselves over the past 2 weeks, 80% were able to access testing within 24 hours, down from 88% in July.

This comes as over half of doctors (53%) say COVID-19 admissions have increased in their hospital over the past fortnight.

As the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 draws closer, almost half of the 900 doctors who responded say they’ve been involved in conversations with their organisations about preparing for it, and 90% feel their organisation is at least somewhat prepared for a second wave.

However, 35% of doctors were still unsure that their organisation would have the necessary PPE to cope with a second peak of the virus.

Despite government guidance that all doctors should be formally assessed for their level of personal risk with regards to COVID-19, only 64% of doctors have had a formal assessment.

Professor Andrew Goddard president of the Royal College of Physicians said: “These results show the NHS is geared up for the impact of a second wave of COVID-19, and it’s a relief to see that so many of our members and their organisations feel prepared.

“However, testing remains an enormous issue. We must ensure that rapid testing and results are available for health and social care staff or we’ll end up tackling winter and the second wave with one hand tied behind our backs.”

Meanwhile, Nuffield Trust research highlights further problems in the Test and Trace programme.

The research suggests a large number of infected people are being missed.

Although 15,526 people were ‘transferred’ to NHS Test and Trace in the week to 9 September, during that period a higher number – 18,371 – tested positive.

And the estimated number of new infections in the community was somewhere in the region of 59,800 over a similar timeframe.

But of those transferred, around one in six (2,424) could not be contacted and 271 had no contact details.

Of the 12,831 infected people who were reached, around one in six again could not provide recent close contacts.

And where contacts were provided, fewer than three-quarters (74%) were reached and asked to self-isolate.

Crucially, of those people then asked to self-isolate (12,831 positive cases and 45,653 recent close contacts in the last week), there is still no information available on how many have done so.

It concludes that the system continues to fall short of what is needed, and hopes the recent release of the long awaited app will help.

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