Health leaders have called on the Government to provide urgent clarity on whether frontline NHS staff will be made to pay their own Covid-19 tests.
It comes more than a month after the Government announced it would be scrapping universal free tests from 1 April, in just over a week’s time.
The NHS Confederation said that concerns are growing among NHS leaders that staff may still be expected to be tested twice a week, costing up to around £50 a month and hitting lower paid staff hardest.
This is particularly concerning in light of the ongoing cost of living crisis, it noted.
It said: ‘While updated guidance issued earlier this month for the NHS no longer asks members of the public to confirm they have a negative test before they visit patients in hospitals and other inpatient settings, NHS workers are still required to report their test results twice a week.’
Last month, the NHS was promised ‘specific detail on the various testing protocols for patients and staff’, but this is yet to be provided.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Health leaders are adamant that continuing to offer free testing to NHS staff is vital given that rates of coronavirus and hospital admissions are still very high and rising.’
He added that ‘in the face of a cost-of-living crisis, many staff will simply not be able to afford to regularly buy their tests’.
A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘Throughout the pandemic we have done everything we can to protect people receiving care and staff.
‘As set out in the Living with COVID-19 plan, from 1 April free tests will only be available for certain groups who are most at risk from the virus – we will set out more details shortly.’
As part of the plan to wind down testing, the Government’s online ordering portal now advises the public to consider if they need to proceed with their order.
Before continuing to place an order, users who report they have no symptoms are told: ‘Most tests are now needed for people at higher risk. In England, most people without COVID-19 symptoms no longer need to take rapid lateral flow test.’
It adds that ‘some people still need tests to stay safe’, including NHS staff, people who are at higher risk, and people who are visiting high-risk places.