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Call for clarity over NHS Covid tests

NHS Confederation said that if staff have to pay for tests themselves it could cost £50 a month.

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Covid testing (PA)

Covid testing (PA)

Covid testing (PA)

Ministers have been accused of leaving NHS staff in the dark as to whether or not they will need to pay for their own Covid-19 tests.

The NHS Confederation said that workers may be forced to fork out about £50 a month for tests if they have to pay themselves.

Free universal testing for the virus will come to an end on April 1, with free tests only being made available to the most vulnerable.

The NHS Confederation said that the NHS was promised “specific detail on the various testing protocols for patients and staff” a month ago, but with 10 days to go until the end of March, leaders have still not been given the detail.

At present, health service staff are still required to test twice weekly for the virus.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Health leaders are adamant that continuing to offer free testing to NHS staff is vital, given that rates of coronavirus and hospital admissions are still very high and rising.

“We know that more NHS workers are again having to take time off due to Covid-19, with it accounting for 30% of all absences, and so the Government cannot put its fingers in ears and pretend that the threat has gone away.

“In the face of a cost-of-living crisis, many staff will simply not be able to afford to regularly buy their tests.

“Given the huge expectations placed on the NHS to recover its services while contending with significant vacancies, staff need to be supported to understand their Covid status, stay well and keep transmission within healthcare settings to a minimum.”

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A National Day of Reflection is taking place on March 23, two years after the UK went into lockdown (PA)

A National Day of Reflection is taking place on March 23, two years after the UK went into lockdown (PA)

PA

A National Day of Reflection is taking place on March 23, two years after the UK went into lockdown (PA)

In February Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that if NHS staff “need tests they will be provided with free tests – that will be a decision for the NHS”.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “Throughout the pandemic we have done everything we can to protect people receiving care and staff.

“As set out in the Living with Covid-19 plan, from 1 April free tests will only be available for certain groups who are most at risk from the virus – we will set out more details shortly.”

Labour’s Wes Streeting, shadow health secretary, said: “Conservative ministers who clapped for nurses and doctors during the pandemic now look set to punish them with a NHS Covid test tax.

“When the Conservatives are already raising taxes on working people and failing to support families struggling with out of control energy bills, this is the worst possible time to be ending free testing.”

It comes as Downing Street said that Whitehall offices should return to “full capacity”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We do want Government offices to return to full capacity… we simply want, as the Cabinet Secretary and others have been clear, we want Government offices which are paid for by the taxpayers to return to the capacity levels, effectively for the desks to be fully used, and we know that all departments are working to achieve that.

“And we recognise that flexible working will play a role. But it’s right that we make best use of these departments.”

Meanwhile the NHS in England said that since Monday just over 150,000 people had booked their spring booster jab.

Elderly care home residents, people who are 75 and over, and people aged 12 and over who are immunosuppressed, will be asked to come forward for the booster, with the first invitations sent out on Monday.

It comes as the Office for National Statistics said that there is no evidence that Covid vaccines have led to an increase in deaths in young people.

And on March 23,, two years after the first lockdown was announced, there will be a national “day of reflection” to remember people who died from Covid-19.

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