Accelerated Covid-19 testing for all hospital trust staff as concerns raised over transmission and death rates

QEQM Photo Chris Constantine

East Kent Hospitals has today (July 17) confirmed its intention to accelerate a programme to rapidly test all 9,000 staff for Covid-19 within the next five days.

The programme is part of an on-going package of measures to help avoid Covid transmission within the Trust’s hospitals, to keep patients, trust staff and the wider community safe.

The programme is in response to the high number of inpatient deaths, over the last month it has had more than twice as many  deaths from covid as the next highest trust.

There have been 429 deaths across East Kent Hospitals Trust (up to July 16) with 12 deaths recorded between July 10-16.

While many people experience mild – or even no – symptoms of Covid, they have the potential to carry and pass on the virus without knowing it.

The Trust says it has taken action to improve infection control, including limiting the number of people on site, wearing face masks at all times in the hospitals, temperature checks at entrances and testing asymptomatic patients regularly whilst they are in hospital.

The Trust called in NHS England and NHS Improvement for help to strengthen its Infection Prevention and Control which includes the expertise of a specialist nurse and additional training for staff.

The Trust is also re-opening some of the services that were suspended during the height of the pandemic, such as outpatient clinics for those who aren’t appropriate for virtual meetings.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Rebecca Martin said: “We are re-opening some hospital services that were suspended while the NHS responded to the peak of the Covid pandemic. Patients invited for appointments and procedures should continue to attend.

“Patients can also help minimise transmission of Covid by following the advice to wear a face covering and maintain social distancing where they can.

“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 or using other services at the Trust.

“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.”

County councillor Karen Constantine, who sits on the KCC health scrutiny panel, said: “We have a crisis in East Kent. We have the worst death rates and highest Covid-19 infection rates in the country. No other trust is having to make an attempt to test all its staff in this way.

“Whilst I hope this is successful of course, I am doubtful that it will be. Likewise I am concerned about how efficient our local track and trace system is. We  need urgent help with infection control and we need a strong and clear public health message as it’s clear our local population is at risk from infection. We will need a further lockdown if this continues.

“I have written several times to the EKHUFT who simply do not reply. This displays a contemptuous attitude to an elected representative and the residents I seek to represent. I have requested the use of perspex screens at the reception area in A&E at QEQM, to prevent covid transmission for both staff and the public and I have asked for updates on infection rates, so that the local population is better informed and can make better decision’s based on accurate information.

“I am extremely dissatisfied that their is no response. To take no action is utterly irresponsible.“