Posted: Sun 19th Apr 2020

Military brought in to help coronavirus testing system in Wales

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Sunday, Apr 19th, 2020

New plans to get more critical workers tested for coronavirus so they can return to work quickly have been announced by Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, today.

Technology solutions, military planning support and removing the cap on social worker referrals will speed up the system to ensure more critical workers are tested daily in Wales.

These are all recommendations of a review ordered by the Health Minister following concerns that not enough tests were being carried out under the current system.

We have previously reported on the low number of tests taking place in North Wales.

Recent data shows there have been 700-800 tests a day in Wales out of a capacity of around 1,300 tests.

When questioned on the subject this week, the First Minister said a review was taking place, and it appears the outcome of that review has been published today – with the full document here.

The findings echo points raised in the week, “…there is too much form filling to process social care workers which is acting as a barrier to accessing the tests as quickly as we would like” “the ceiling of 15 referrals per local authority may have depressed demand”.

The review also notes:

  • “Our plan set a target of reaching five thousand tests a day in April.  We expected to be able to do so by the second or third week of April. We will not reach 5000 tests by the 3rd week of April. “
  • “…some tests are reliant on UK contract arrangements. We are, however, clear that Wales is receiving a fair share of the UK arrangements.”
  • “Welsh Government has committed further monies – currently making £50m available, to bring in further equipment, reagents and other activity to increase our testing capacity.”
  • “Not everyone will be able to drive to a mass testing unit. Work is ongoing to provide more local services for those eligible who cannot travel.”

In a statement today the Health Minister said: “We are increasing our capacity for testing in Wales through our community testing units, the introduction of regional drive-in testing centres and, within weeks, an online home testing service.

“As the daily number of tests have not been matching the capacity we’ve built up in Wales, I ordered a rapid review of the current system.

“The review has produced a number of recommendations to speed up the process of referring key workers for testing. I have accepted all of these to be implemented immediately.

“Today I have also published our critical worker testing policy outlining which workers will be tested and how.

“I want to see a rapid increase in testing of critical workers across Wales so they can return to work more quickly and have the confidence to carry out their work safely. Their contribution to stop the spread of coronavirus and keeping us all safe is invaluable.”

The recommendations, approved by the Minister, include:

  • Work to provide a web-based booking platform to remove the bureaucracy.
  • Removing of the ceiling on referrals of social workers per local authority.
  • Welsh Government will work with Local Authorities and Local Resilience Forum to review and revise the referral process for testing critical workers.
  • Military to look at operational processes to speed up the system and make it more efficient.

The new ‘critical worker testing policy’ can be found here on the Gov.Wales site.

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