NHS staff on the coronavirus frontline at Stoke-on-Trent’s main hospital can now test themselves for Covid-19 at home.
University Hospitals of North Midlands (UHNM) NHS Trust – which runs the Royal Stoke University Hospital and Stafford’s County Hospital – is one of 34 NHS bodies across the country to be given the tests.
It means each employee can now test themselves at home twice a week – and their results are known within an hour. It is targeting NHS staff who are not displaying any Covid-19 symptoms.
Latest figures have revealed 315 coronavirus patients were being treated at the Royal Stoke on Sunday – with 37 of them on ventilators.
UHNM chief executive Tracy Bullock said: “We have started to introduce a programme of asymptomatic testing for Covid-19 staff who are in direct contact with patients. This is a key milestone in helping to keep patients and staff safe and services accessible.
“We have received lateral flow testing kits for the benefit of our frontline staff who will be asked to test themselves at home twice a week.
“This is a welcome addition to all the measures we have in place to prevent and control the spread of the infection across our region and organisation. However, it is important that everybody continues to play their role in limiting the spread of the virus.”
The Royal Stoke is keen for patients to continue with their treatments at the Hartshill complex.
Medical director John Oxtoby said: “We are working hard to provide the best level of care we can for our patients and are doing everything we can to keep our hospitals safe.
“We would want to reassure our communities that our hospitals are safe and it is extremely important that anyone with significant health concerns continues to come to us for help.
“All inpatients are tested for Covid-19 on admission and those who test positive are cared for in separate wards to those who test negative.”
Health campaigner Ian Syme has welcomed the new-style tests.
The North Staffordshire Healthwatch leader said: “If we know these don’t give out false negatives, it will help staff who are having to self-isolate because they might have come into contact with somebody with Covid. It will give them the confidence to return to work which will help those who are being inundated with work at the hospital because there will be more hands.
“We know again and again that during the winter the pressures on the hospital are phenomenal. The more hands we have working and the more skills we have there the better. We have to stop burnouts and this is a positive step.”