NHS staff are being forced to stay off work and self-isolate because they cannot access coronavirus tests for themselves or family members, health leaders have warned.
Hospitals in Bristol, Leeds and London have raised concerns about the lack of tests available to staff, according to NHS Providers, which represents NHS trust leaders.
It claimed the lack of testing is contributing to staff absences, putting NHS services at risk and impacting on preparations for the winter pressures of Covid-19 and seasonal flu.
It comes after widespread reports from people across England claiming they were unable to book tests or were being offered tests hundreds of miles away.
One doctor claimed two NHS doctors were unable to go into work because of a lack of testing, despite continually checking the website through the night.
Last week HuffPost UK revealed emergency workers were being turned away from testing sites, with 1,500 cars turned away from sites across England on just one day.
There is no COVID testing in west London at all today - neither walk in nor drive thru.— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) September 11, 2020
Which means *two* NHS doctors cannot go to work - at a time when COVID cases are surging.
They checked all through the night.. 2am.. 5am.. Still nothing.@matthancock this is disgusting. pic.twitter.com/a5ktv0OUcl
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said: “It’s clear that there are current capacity problems with the testing regime.
“Trust leaders from Bristol, Leeds and London have all raised concerns over the weekend about the lack of testing availability leading to greater levels of staff absence.
“It’s not just access for tests for staff members themselves, it’s also access for their family members as NHS workers have to self-isolate if their family members are unable to confirm if they have Covid-19 or not.
“The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.”
He added NHS trusts were also concerned about the impact of shortages on patients who need to be tested for coronavirus before being admitted for hospital treatment.
“We’re aware of a small number of examples of patients being unable to get such tests, which cuts across trusts’ ability to restore services in the way they have been asked to do,” he said.
“The government response has often been to rely on a random, impressive sounding, overall statistic – the number of tests performed or PPE (personal protective equipment) items delivered – or to set out a bold future ambition – a world class test and trace service by June, or a moonshot testing regime at some point next year,” he said.
“Both approaches ignore the operational problem at hand. Neither helps the frontline organisations that actually have to deal with the problem.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said testing capacity has been targeted at the hardest-hit areas following a rise in demand.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Hospitals continue to fully comply with recommended patient and staff testing protocols. To further support the national Test and Trace programme, NHS hospital labs have now been asked to further expand their successful, fast turnaround and highly accurate, testing capacity.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.