Black Country hospital trusts ramp up coronavirus tests as national level stays low
Coronavirus testing of frontline workers is being ramped up in the Black Country as local hospital trusts take matters into their own hands.
The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, which runs New Cross Hospital, says it is starting in-house testing on staff this week amid concerns that the current system is taking too long.
And the Black Country Pathology Service is providing the laboratory capacity to be able to test staff from the whole region.
It comes after NHS England opened up a drive-thru test centre at Edgbaston, as concerns grew over delays to the process.
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Across the region thousands of staff working with Covid-19 patients are yet to be tested, chiefly due to a shortage of the required equipment.
The lack of testing also means frontline staff who are self-isolating are unable to return to work, unsure of whether of not they have the virus, leading to staff shortages at some trusts.
A spokesperson for the Royal Wolverhampton trust said that staff testing was due to begin early this week.
"The Black Country Pathology Service, hosted by RWT, is also providing the laboratory capacity for staff testing for the wider region," the spokesperson added.
"This is important in allowing our frontline workers who are tested negative to safely return to work and to support the NHS response to Covid-19."
The Government has vowed to drastically increase testing for the virus, with Matt Hancock saying he wanted to see all health workers tested as soon as possible.
However on April 1 the NHS said just 2,000 of half a million frontline staff in England had been tested and the figures on Sunday showed just over 12,000 people had been tested in the previous day.
That's despite the Government aiming to carry out 100,000 tests a day in England by the end of April.
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden said: "The country has become weary of ministers trotting out the same old lines on testing for the past month.
"They have been talking about 'ramping up' since the beginning of March with very little change in the low number of people being tested.
"It’s therefore not surprising that here in Wolverhampton our own trust has decided to use its own abilities to do more testing whatever is happening nationally.
"In the short term this increase in testing is vital to cut down on unnecessary staff absences and maximise the number of people who can help patients and the wider public.
"In the longer term we will need far more testing to get a more accurate picture of who has or hasn’t had the virus and help the country emerge from the lockdown period."