en London NHS trusts have been placed at the front of the queue for rapid covid tests for staff – but the first deliveries fell short of expectations.
Trusts such as Imperial College Healthcare, Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Barking, Havering and Redbridge were yesterday among the first 34 in the country to receive “lateral flow” tests that can indicate within 15 minutes whether staff have the virus.
However the Standard has learned that some London trusts received only one test per frontline worker – despite the aim of staff testing themselves at home at least twice a week to ensure they are safe to come to work.
The tests are understood to come in boxes of 12, but rather than a box being provided for each employee, the first delivery only included enough for a single test per person. Hospitals now hope for more deliveries in the coming days.
The imminent roll-out of lateral flow tests to councils also suffered problems, when only 21 of the 33 London boroughs were placed on the Government’s priority list.
One NHS insider said hospitals now feared a “short-term blip” in staff absences as asymptomatic staff unexpectedly tested positive. Almost 2,000 hospital staff were absent for covid reasons last month.
NHS staff who test positive using the rapid tests are required to have a lab-confirmed PCR swab test to authenticate the result due to the fact the lateral flow tests are less accurate.
Twice-weekly rapid testing was meant to “mitigate” problems with the sensitivity and specificity of the tests causing “false positives” and “false negatives”.
The roll-out of lateral flow tests was confirmed yesterday, with all NHS trusts in England due to receive kits by the end of next week.
The other London trusts that have begun to receive the rapid tests are: Chelsea and Westminster, Epsom and St Helier, Hillingdon, Kingston, London North West Healthcare, the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital and Barnet, Enfield and Haringey mental health trust.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also announced that 50 boroughs across England would receive 10,000 lateral flow tests each week to enable community testing of people without symptoms.
But the list omitted boroughs with a high number of cases such as Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Croydon.
Bromley and Ealing, which were also excluded, last night asked to be included. London Councils, which represents the 33 boroughs, is believed to be in the process of asking for rapid tests to be made available across the capital.
A London Councils spokesperson said: “The Department for Health and Social Care is giving all local authorities the opportunity to access rapid lateral flow coronavirus tests for their communities. We understand this will be an ongoing process. London boroughs are in discussions with the department about how these tests will be rolled out.”