Covid testing - CSP warns employers of legal duty

The CSP is raising concerns about patient and staff safety in light of the apparent ending of free Covid testing for healthcare professionals.


Update – 31 March 2022

The government have now announced that free Covid tests will still be made available to NHS staff who work directly with patients.

CSP policy director Rob Yeldham said: 'We welcome the decision that NHS and NHS contracted physios will get free tests, but the infection control and public health need for regular testing applies in all health and care sectors, and we are concerned about those working for charities or the independent sector and about students on placements.

'We have already raised our concerns about this and are currently seeking clarification on whether private professionals who treat people in care homes will be covered by the social care provisions.

'Employers and others outside the NHS will have to look at the risks and consider if they have obligations under health and safety law to provide tests to staff.

'For self-employed physios, the added costs will be a problem, as many are only bringing in a very small income so any additional costs are hard to adjust for. However, their own and patient safety is paramount.'

Since announcing the end of free public Covid testing, the Department of Health and Social Care in England has not announced any alternative way for health and care professionals, including physiotherapists and support workers, to access regular testing.  

CSP policy director Rob Yeldham said: 'Regular testing of asymptomatic healthcare staff is essential to prevent the spread of Covid to clinically vulnerable patients and to prevent a loss of staff from outbreaks in healthcare settings.

Legal duty

'The Department for Health and Social Care should be continuing to provide free testing for health and care staff directly.

If they do not, the NHS and other providers must remember that health and safety legislation requires them provide a safe place to work and undertake thorough risk assessments in order to reduce risks and protect their employees as far as is reasonably practicable.

Given the transmissibility of Covid-19 taken with NHS staff providing care to vulnerable patients, the risk of transmission can only be medium to high. This is likely to mean they will have to provide regular free testing of staff who are exposed to patients and colleagues who potentially have Covid. 

Cost of living

If the Department for Health and Social Care is not going to provide access to free Covid testing, the CSP is concerned that, as well as being unfair, many low paid health workers will be unable to afford regular testing especially in the context of rising costs of living.

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