Wednesday 17 June 2020 / 10:30 PM Health / Jonathan Ashworth

Labour Party calls for routine testing of all health and care staff

The Labour Party is calling for routine testing of all staff in the NHS and social care sectors to help minimise transmission of Covid-19.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, is calling for testing to expanded beyond symptomatic carriers, so that all staff are regularly tested once a week.

The Department of Health and Social Care said on the 4th April that it would be testing critical key workers regularly once widespread testing became available. And in a letter dated 29th April, NHS England confirmed that it would be extending regular testing to asymptomatic staff. Despite this, universal staff testing has yet to be implemented.

Labour’s call comes as a study suggested that a fifth of coronavirus infections among hospital patients and almost nine in 10 infections among healthcare workers may have been caught in hospital.

The Government’s current testing strategy involves testing NHS workers who have symptoms of the virus. Some trusts are already doing routine staff testing, but it is not currently not required across the board.

A recent study from Imperial suggested that weekly testing of healthcare workers is “estimated to reduce their contribution to transmission by 25-33 per cent, on top of reductions achieved by self-isolation following symptoms”.

Similarly, a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine warns that symptoms-based screening alone in nursing homes failed to detect large numbers of infectious cases. It recommends that “testing to include asymptomatic persons residing or working in skilled nursing facilities needs to be implemented now”.

Another study at Barts Health NHS Trust found that at the height of Covid-19 in the community at the end of March, around 7 per cent of asymptomatic healthcare workers tested positive, falling to around 1 per cent by the end of April.


Jonathan Ashworth MP, commenting on the calls, said:

“Regular testing of all NHS staff must now be an urgent priority. Weekly testing of all healthcare workers reduces the spread of the virus and helps protect NHS staff and patients.

“Eventually resetting the NHS to continue treating covid and non-covid patients is going to have to take priority. This should include putting in place infection control measures to make sure patients can continue to safely receive their care, and routine testing of all staff should be a part of this.”