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Chris Hopson, CEO NHS Providers, coronavirus testing regime 'a very long way from being fit for purpose'

NHS trusts frustrated over contact tracing and testing strategy

Geraldine Gardner

Geraldine Gardner


01635 886684

CE of NHS Providers Christopher Hopson tell Newburytoday public cooperation is vital in controlling the spread of Covid-19

CE NHS Providers Chris Hopson

CHIEF executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson told BBC Breakfast this morning that his members have "not had clear information and instructions about what their role will be" in the contact tracing system.

In response Security Minister James Brokenshire said Mr Hopson's comments "will not be lost on anyone" at the Department of Health – and will be followed up on "at pace".

NHS Providers is the membership organisation for the NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services that treat patients and service users in the NHS.

It helps those NHS trusts and foundation trusts to deliver patient-focused care by enabling them to learn from each other, acting as their public voice and helping shape the system in which they operate.

Mr Hopson, who grew up in Newbury, has been very busy in recent weeks representing the views of NHS trusts nationwide. He has been interviewed extensively and was on Question Time on BBC One the other week.

On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that everyone aged five and over with symptoms is now eligible for a test. He said: “Anyone with a new continuous cough, a high temperature or the loss or change of sense of taste or smell can book a test.”

In response Mr Hopson said: "While the testing regime in England is improving, it is still a very long way from being fit for purpose.

"NHS trusts report they are in a patchwork quilt with far too many gaps. While the NHS has grown its capacity as fast as possible, we still have lots of trusts experiencing delays in getting test results back from external testing capacity.

"These tests are meant to be returned within 48 hours but one trust told us today that their average test return was five days, with the longest being 13 days.

"The Government constantly talks about national capacity. But completing a patchwork quilt requires individual gaps to be quickly identified and filled."

He conceded that the NHS needs to play its part, but, he said "given how reliant many trusts are on external testing capacity, they need the Government and the rest of the Government-controlled testing regime to play their role".

He also identified three gaps: "NHS organisations are still unclear about what role they will play in the general population test, track and trace approach that will accompany lockdown easing that has already started."

Mr Hopson also voiced the frustration of NHS trusts regarding the testing strategy, saying: "We are still waiting for a proper, updated, new testing strategy so we can see where we are going, how fast capacity is going to be built and who will be prioritised.

"Trusts are getting increasingly frustrated by announcements expanding who can be tested whilst promises about priority for NHS patients and staff go unfulfilled."

He said that the gap between the tone struck in public statements and the reality on the ground "is still painfully wide and needs to be closed quickly". 

Finally he said: "If the NHS is to safely restart the full range of services, trusts need to know how and when all hospital bound patients, for example those requiring elective surgery, and all staff treating those patients, can be tested."

In an exclusive interview with the Newbury Weekly News in March, Mr Hopson said: “I see our main role as getting the message across of what we – the NHS trusts – are doing.

“It’s very easy for people to say ‘why haven’t they done this?’ or ‘why haven’t they got this or that equipment’, but what you have to realise is that from a standing start about six weeks ago, the NHS has achieved a tremendous amount."

He finished with this plea: “We have stretched the capacity of the NHS to an incredible degree, but we don’t want the numbers of sick patients too concentrated.

“I would urge people of West Berkshire – do NOT underestimate the importance of social isolation.

“Frankly, people are being irresponsible, arrogant and selfish if they don’t. Please, please, take note in order to prevent loss of life.”

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