A trust in the South East of England has committed to testing its entire workforce for Covid-19 in the next few days, to help “identify and isolate” asymptomatic staff, as services that were previously suspended begin to re-open.
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust said it was in the process of testing around 9,000 staff, as part of an ongoing package of measures to help avoid the transmission of the virus across its hospitals.
“It’s important that our patients and staff have confidence that we are doing all we can to keep them safe”
The trust, one of the largest acute providers in England, has three main hospital sites at Kent and Canterbury Hospital, William Harvey Hospital, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital, as well as two smaller ones.
The move comes after concerns were raised about the Covid-19 mortality rate at the trust, with figures from NHS England showing 30 reported deaths between 1 and 19 July.
Although mortality figures are published daily, they are recorded based on the date of death rather than when announced, meaning it is difficult to compare between trusts that may be revealing deaths faster or more slowly.
However, the available data suggests the Kent trust has reported some of the highest Covid-19 death figures nationally over recent weeks.
The trust said in a statement that the move to test its whole staff base within five days, starting on 17 July, was an acceleration of an existing programme to test all staff.
It is currently being supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement to strengthen its infection prevention and control, which has included the expertise of a specialist nurse and additional training for staff.
Action already taken to boost infection control have included limiting the number of people on site, wearing of face masks at all times in hospitals, temperature checks and testing asymptomatic patients regularly while in hospital.
Chief medical officer at the trust, Dr Rebecca Martin, said: “We are re-opening some hospital services that were suspended while the NHS responded to the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s important that our patients and staff have confidence that we are doing all we can to keep them, and those close to them, safe while they are in our care whether they being treated for Covid-19 or using other services,” said she.
“The combination of this testing programme to help identify and isolate any asymptomatic staff and ensuring the highest possible standards of infection prevention and control are critical to this,” she added.