I know that some constituents have raised their concerns regarding the vote on regular testing for NHS workers.
NHS staff, care workers and other medical professionals are on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus, and I am in awe of their dedication, skill and professionalism. Over recent months, we have significantly increased our testing capacity in this country – we are now able to carry out more than 200,000 tests a day – which means that we can ensure all NHS and care staff are prioritised for regular testing.
On 24 June, NHS England and NHS Improvement wrote to NHS trusts and foundation trusts to outline further steps to be taken in the NHS regarding testing. These steps include continuing to prioritise testing of all NHS staff with symptoms, regular testing of asymptomatic staff in situations where there is an incident or outbreak, and regular surveillance testing of staff.
As I’m sure you can understand, we are taking a targeted approach to this testing, so that it is focused on the most high-risk areas. Clinical advice is to focus intensive asymptomatic testing in those areas or settings identified to have high prevalence. Staff working with patients on wards, for example, will benefit from regular testing far more than NHS staff working in offices or administrative roles where they do not come into regular contact with patients. This approach is crucial as, when prevalence of the virus is very low, the risk of misleading results is higher. This can undermine the value of testing.
For the reasons set out above, blanket weekly testing was not recommended by SAGE. The Government's approach to dealing with this health crisis has been to follow the scientific advice. I voted in line with the latest scientific advice, and I will continue to do so.
NHS staff are playing an integral part of the national effort to combat coronavirus - and we owe them a great deal of gratitude for all that they do. I know, and I hope I can assure you, that the Government is committed to supporting all staff now and in the future.