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The Scottish Government has announced that further groups of health and care staff are to also receive weekly testing for coronavirus as well as care home staff.
Staff who work in specialist cancer services, or provide long-term care for the elderly, as well as staff working in residential mental health, will be offered weekly covod-19 testing from 8 July.
“It is vitally important that we continue with rigorous infection prevention and control practices”
Care home staff in Scotland are already supposed to be offered routine testing, following an announcement at the end of May by health secretary Jeane Freeman.
The latest move “aims to protect NHS staff and patients by reducing the spread of the virus in hospitals and other healthcare settings”, noted the government in a statement.
In addition, from 29 June, it said all staff in hospitals and care home who interact with patients or residents will be required to wear a medical face mask throughout their shift.
Anyone entering care homes and hospitals will also be asked to wear a face covering throughout and face coverings will be required when attending a hospital appointment.
Meanwhile, it was also revealed that the regulator Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) will restart its inspection programme of hospitals and services by the end of June.
HIS paused its inspection work in March to allow local infection prevention and control teams to concentrate on tackling the virus.
But Ms Freeman said the time was “now right for inspections to resume”. She noted that the chief nursing officer, Fiona McQueen, had asked HIS to develop plans to “take this forward safely”.
The measures form part of updated guidance to “further strengthen” the safety of staff and patients as Scotland’s NHS began restarting community and hospital services paused due to the pandemic.
Ms Freeman said: “As the NHS prepares to safely resume more services, it is vitally important that we continue with rigorous infection prevention and control practices.
“I am bringing forward a range of actions to strengthen these practices, in line with advice from clinical experts.
“This includes regular testing of all hospital staff working in specialist cancer services, as well as those who provide long-term care for the elderly, and those working in long-stay mental health facilities.”
She added: “This new guidance will also ensure all staff in hospitals and care homes who interact with patients or residents will be required to wear a medical face mask throughout their shift.
The Labour Party recently called for the routine testing of all staff in the NHS and social care sectors to be introduced to help minimise transmission of Covid-19.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary, said he was calling for testing to expanded beyond symptomatic carriers, so that all staff were regularly tested once a week.
The government in England’s current testing strategy involves testing NHS staff who have symptoms of the virus. Some trusts are already doing routine staff testing, but it is not currently mandatory.
However, like Scotland, it has said that all hospital staff would be expected to wear surgical masks, starting from 15 June, while all visitors and outpatients should wear face coverings at all times.
Health leaders responded by asking why such measures had not been implemented earlier in the pandemic and questioned whether they would apply in future to other settings as well as hospitals.
The move, announced on 5 June by the Department of Health and Social Care, followed the widespread and high profile shortages of personal protective equipment during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.