Norfolk to get three new coronavirus testing stations
PUBLISHED: 20:55 23 April 2020 | UPDATED: 06:39 24 April 2020
Testing sites will open at Norfolk’s three major hospitals on Monday, in a bid to accelerate coronavirus checks on the county’s key workers.
NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (NCH&C) announced the move as pressure grew nationally for the scale of testing to increase rapidly, amid fears that lives are being put at risk.
The CCG has also sent a letter today to all of the county’s care homes, giving clear instructions on how staff will be able to get tested for Covid-19 as the regime expands.
There is currently drive-through screening for health workers, including GPs, ambulance staff and community nurses, at Norwich Community Hospital and Beccles Community Hospital.
On Monday that will cease, with all of the testing consolidated at new bases at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) at Gorleston, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) at King’s Lynn.
An NCH&C spokesman said: “Our swabbing service has adapted to the priorities and demands of the wider health and care system.
“Over the last week, we had been testing staff from local NHS trusts and organisations, and other health and social care partner organisations including care homes at our drive through swabbing facility at Norwich Community Hospital.”
The drive through sites across the three hospitals will be co-ordinated by staff at the NNUH.
The NCH&C spokesman stressed that testing needed to be booked, and said people should not just turn up at the sites.
John Webster, an executive director for NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Our community and acute hospitals are working incredibly hard to develop our testing arrangements so we can test more frontline workers.
“We also plan to roll out testing to other key frontline public sector workers in due course. This is important in enabling key staff to return to work where it is determined that the staff member or people they live with have tested negative.”
This week the NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) responded to comments from the chair of National Care Association and Norfolk County Council saying the closest test centres staff were being sent to were Stansted and Sheffield.
Mr Webster added: “NHS England and Improvement arranged for two sites at Stansted and Ipswich to be available in case of need but we have sufficient capacity in Norfolk and Waveney and no health or care staff should need to travel for tests outside Norfolk and Waveney.”
The number of tests that have been carried out so far has yet to verified but Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, said between 500 to 600 tests had been done - but she said the ambition was for a “much higher number”.
Pressure to increase testing has been an ongoing issue, with Norfolk MP Brandon Lewis saying in an interview with Good Morning Britain’s Piers Morgan that it was “dreadful” that care workers who wanted coronavirus testing were unable to get access.
Mr Lewis, who represents Great Yarmouth, spoke about raising “capacity” for testing.
Mr Lewis said: “A couple of things are changing. First of all, you’ve got to have the capacity to satisfy that level of demand and we’ve seen that growing exponentially once you get production geared up. “
During the daily Downing Street briefing, Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, announced all essential workers would be able to directly book a test for free.
Mr Hancock said: “This all applies for people in essential workers’ households too who need a test.
“It’s all part of getting Britain back on her feet.”
Mr Hancock said the whole process would be free for those being tested.
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