The Daily Telegraph

NHS accused of avoiding Covid testing on staff

- By Laura Donnelly

HOSPITALS failed to test staff for Covid because they feared having to send too many workers home, when almost half were infected at the peak of the epidemic, MPS have been told.

Prof Sir John Bell, an immunologi­st at the University of Oxford, said the response by the NHS had “not been ethical” and said Britain had been “asleep to the concept that we were going to have a pandemic”.

He made the criticisms after fellow scientist Sir Paul Nurse said that “up to 45 per cent” of healthcare workers were infected at the height of the epidemic, often with no symptoms, so they went undetected.

Sir John told MPS on the Commons health and social care select committee that there “wasn’t a real push” to test healthcare workers for Covid.

He said: “There was a suspicion, which I think is probably correct, that NHS institutio­ns and the NHS were avoiding testing their hospital workers because they were afraid they would find the kind of levels that Paul [Nurse] has described, and they would have to send everyone home, and as a result not have a workforce.

“That in my view is not an ethical approach to the problem. You can’t not test people because you’re worried about a human resources issue.”

Sir Paul said that his institute had warned Downing Street in March, urging the importance of the systematic testing of NHS workers.

He told MPS: “At the height of the pandemic, our own research... [shows] that up to 45 per cent of healthcare workers were infected.

“And they were infecting their colleagues, they were infecting patients, yet they weren’t being tested systematic­ally.”

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