Survey shows 83% of doctors not tested for Covid-19
The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is calling on health boards and trusts to change their guidance for testing medical professionals after a survey of its members found 83 per cent of doctors have not been tested for Covid-19.
The RCSEd which represents 15,000 medics across the UK, conducted a survey of its members in partnership with the Doctors Association UK, generating responses from foundation year doctors up to consultants, working in 151 different Trusts and Health Boards across the four nations.
A total of 81 per cent of respondents said their Trust or Health Board is only testing staff who display COVID-like symptoms.
And 68 per cent of those surveyed said they have colleagues who have developed COVID or COVID-like symptoms in the past two weeks, but only
10 per cent of those medics have then gone on to be tested for the virus themselves.
RCSEd recently called on Government to increase the number of ‘COVID-free hubs’ available to allow life-saving operations to be carried out after a survey of its members showed that 87 per cent of cancer surgeons had reduced operating.
While work is now underway in many areas across the UK to set up these hubs, RCSEd believes increasing the amount of testing being carried out on health professionals is the only way to truly create a ‘COVID-light’ environment.
Professor Michael Griffin OBE, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said: “The results of this survey show that although more testing is now available, this isn’t translating into tests being carried out on healthcare professionals.
“We appreciate this is an extremely difficult situation, and that there have been issues with the availability of tests up until recently. More tests are now available, but we need to ensure they are being used much more frequently and robustly to allow health professionals to continue their vital work and protect patient safety.
“We also need consistency in how official guidance is implemented by Trusts and Health Boards. For instance, Public Health England’s official advice for the general public is to self-isolate for seven days if a member of their household displays COVID-like symptoms. However, we are aware of a number of NHS doctors who have been advised to carry on working despite being exposed to colleagues without PPE who have developed illness due to the virus. Many have also have been told they will not be tested unless they develop symptoms.
“This disparity in guidance is flawed, and we must increase the amount of testing being carried out to ensure health professionals who are potentially carrying the virus but are asymptomatic are identified so they can self-isolate.
“I know from speaking with our international colleagues, in Singapore and Taiwan for example, that if a member of a surgical team develops COVID-like symptoms, the team is taken off duty and tested, and are only allowed back in a hospital environment if their test result is negative.
“We need to learn from this example and apply this thinking as soon as possible.
“Likewise, there are health professionals who are self-isolating because they are displaying symptoms, but may in fact not have COVID. Testing could allow them to get back to work.”
Almost two in three respondents to the survey said they were unhappy with the amount of testing being offered by their Trust or Health Board.
Professor Griffin added: “We’re going to be facing a huge backlog of operations.
“The only way to work through this will be to identify COVID-free or “COVID-light” environments where these operations can take place, and the only way to ensure these spaces remain as COVID-free as possible is by testing rigorously.
“Appropriately, patients being admitted for an elective operation are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days before coming into hospital and are then tested and checked for any COVID-like symptoms before the procedure can go ahead, so the least we can do as the professionals carrying out these operations is to be tested to guarantee we are not carrying the virus.
“Winning the trust and confidence of the British public that their operation can be done safely is going to be instrumental in getting patients back into hospital environments and addressing the huge backlog of operations and diagnostic tests, further down the line, and I believe that guaranteeing hospital staff are being tested regularly is the best way to do that.”