Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies has expressed concern that rapid twice weekly covid testing for frontline NHS staff is only being rolled out in North Wales this week, when “100%” of frontline NHS staff in England already have access to it.
Lateral flow devices (LFDs) are one of the tools being used to help to detect and fight COVID-19 and have been used in other parts of the UK for weeks to ensure frontline NHS staff are protected and not passing the virus on to others – plus to carry out wider community testing as in Liverpool.
Since they were introduced in other parts of the UK from late November, James has been pushing for them to be introduced quickly into hospitals and surgeries in North Wales. On requesting an update from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in late December, he was told that a “phased roll out will commence on January 11thto all high risk and medium risk areas in the health board”.
Questioning the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP, in last week’s meeting of the Health and Social Care Committee, James asked what percentage of frontline NHS staff now have access to the twice weekly lateral flow tests and was told it is 100% in England. James highlighted to the Health Secretary that they are yet to be rolled out in North Wales.
Speaking after the meeting, he said:
“These lateral flow tests have been available to patient-facing staff in most of the UK for some weeks, but sadly once again North Wales is lagging behind, as Welsh Government will not begin rolling them out until this coming week.
“We know that between one in four and one in three people who have coronavirus never show any symptoms but that does not mean they are not infectious.
“These devices can help identify people who are infected with the virus but do not have symptoms and would not otherwise be coming forward for a test.
“I have been pushing for them not only for frontline NHS staff in North Wales, but also for loved ones of those in care homes and parents of children in hospital.
“Alone they are not a silver bullet for stopping the spread of the virus, but they can test large numbers of individuals in a rapid and timely manner, and if used in combination with other vital infection prevention control measures, such as wearing appropriate PPE, washing hands regularly and social distancing, they are another tool to keep us all safer. It is therefore vital that they are rolled out across the region as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, following yesterday's (January 10th) UK Government announcement that rapid, regular testing for people without symptoms of coronavirus will be made available to all local authorities in England to test people who cannot work from home, James has made enquiries to determine whether the Welsh Government will be providing similar.
He said: “As the Health Secretary has stated, targeted asymptomatic testing and subsequent isolation is highly effective in breaking chains of transmission. It is therefore imperative that we use all such tools available to us.”