Routine Covid testing of asymptomatic NHS staff to end


FRONTLINE healthcare workers will no longer be expected to routinely test for Covid unless they have symptoms, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

From September 28, regular testing of asymptomatic patient-facing staff in the NHS will be “paused”.

As well as frontline hospital staff, this includes staff in GP and dental surgeries, pharmacists and optometrists. 

It is the first significant change to testing guidance in Scotland since free PCR testing was wound up in the community in May.

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In a statement, the Scottish Government said: “There is consensus that we are now in a downward trajectory from the most recent wave, with prevalence and other epidemiological indicators improving.

“In addition, vaccination continues to offer protection against hospitalisation and harm across all ages groups. However, changes to testing will be kept under clinical review.

“Based on this advice, asymptomatic healthcare worker testing can now be paused with immediate effect.”

Staff absences due to Covid – including cases where individuals had tested positive despite having no symptoms – have been seen as exacerbating pressures on the NHS. 

However, there will also be concerns that the guidance increases the risk of the virus spreading in hospital settings.

Figures suggest that around 20 to 30 per cent of patients in hospital with Covid since the hihgly-transmissible Omicron variant began spreading have become infected following admission.  

It comes after England went further by pausing asymptomatic testing of hospital staff and patients, and care home staff and residents, on August 31. 

The most recent weekly surveillance from the Office for National Statistics indicated a small increase in the prevalence of Covid in Scotland, from one in 50 to one in 55 for the week ending August 28, although the agency said the trend was “uncertain”. 

HeraldScotland: Scotland and Northern Ireland appear to have experienced an increase in Covid prevalence in recent weeks, but the ONS said the trend is 'uncertain' (Source: PHS Weekly Statistical Report)Scotland and Northern Ireland appear to have experienced an increase in Covid prevalence in recent weeks, but the ONS said the trend is ‘uncertain’ (Source: PHS Weekly Statistical Report)

Wastewater sampling in Scotland has also suggested a recent uptick in levels of the virus in the community, although the number of Covid positive patients in hospital has plateaued.   

HeraldScotland: Wastewater surveillance in Scotland indicates a small uptick in virus levels in late August (PHS)Wastewater surveillance in Scotland indicates a small uptick in virus levels in late August (PHS)

HeraldScotland: All hospital patients are routinely tested for Covid on admission and during their stay, which serves as a proxy for community rates of the virus. As of September 11, there were 611 Covid positive patients in hospital, down from 718 on August 24All hospital patients are routinely tested for Covid on admission and during their stay, which serves as a proxy for community rates of the virus. As of September 11, there were 611 Covid positive patients in hospital, down from 718 on August 24

There is no change to the guidance for frontline healthcare staff who have possible Covid symptoms. 

They should continue to home test using a lateral flow device if they experience respiratory symptoms and, if positive, isolate for a minimum of five days. 

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After five days, staff working with patients and service users in face-to-face settings can return to work when they have had two consecutive negative LFD test results (taken at least 24 hours apart) and feel well enought to work – for example, they do not have a high temperature. 

Those working with individuals whose immune system means that they are at higher risk of serious illness, despite vaccination, may be redeployed for at least 10 days until after their symptoms started. 





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