10% of hospital nurses off work with virus symptoms or in isolation

One in 10 hospital nurses is off work, reports suggest.

Data from the Covid-19 national operational dashboard from Saturday, seen by the Health Service Journal, show that across English acute trusts there were 28,063 Covid-19-related absences reported among nurses and midwives – 10% of a headcount of around 280,000.

This could include staff who have symptoms themselves or those who are in isolation due to someone in their home showing signs of illness.

The news comes as the NHS has increased testing capacity to include family members of health service staff.

And ministers said they are “confident” that the Government will achieve its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.

Many staff have spoken about being unable to work due to isolation rules.

If someone in a family shows Covid-19 symptoms, including a new continuous cough or high temperature, then everyone in the household must not leave the home for 14 days, according to Government guidance.

A letter for regional NHS bosses outlines testing expansion plans, including to symptomatic people living in the same homes as NHS workers.

But it says that testing must take place within three days from the onset of symptoms in order to be most effective.

The letter, dated April 12, adds: “If a member of staff tests negative, then they can return to work if they are well enough to do so and should discuss this with their employing organisation.

“If an individual living in the same household as a member of the NHS family tests negative then the NHS worker can return to work without themselves being tested, as long as they remain symptom-free and the whole household can come out of self-isolation.”

On testing, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told LBC: “We are working at pace and the same is true with testing – we are increasing the capacity, we are increasing it daily, but I appreciate we still need to reach that target of 100,000 set by the Government by the end of this month and that’s why many laboratories are being opened up so we can reach that target.”

Asked whether the Government can meet its 100,000-a-day testing target at the end of the month, she told BBC Breakfast: “I’m confident that we can.”

It comes after the Government’s chief scientific adviser was quizzed on testing during the beginning of the crisis.

Speaking to ITV on Monday, Sir Patrick Vallance said: “Well, I think the testing at the beginning was at the right level.

“At the beginning PHE (Public Health England) got off to a good start in terms of testing to try and make sure they caught people coming into the country with it.

“I then think it’s not scaled as fast as it needs to scale – that’s being done now – but I do think testing is an incredibly important bit of this. It needs to be done at scale and it needs to be done rapidly enough to be able to look at outbreaks and isolate.

“I think it’s been good in terms of what’s been able to be done in hospitals.

“It clearly hasn’t been at the scale that’s enabled all the healthcare working testing that’s an important part of this – and I think that’s why it so important it does get into the right position now.”

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