Thousands of asymptomatic frontline NHS workers will be tested for coronavirus as managers work to reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections.
Hospital bosses are working to avoid a worst case scenario in which hundreds of frontline staff test positive for the virus and have to self-isolate for a fortnight.
It’s understood that 11,000 asymptomatic staff within the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group (NCA) will be tested over the next fortnight.
The NCA includes some of Greater Manchester’s busiest hospitals, including Salford Royal, North Manchester General, Royal Oldham Hospital and Fairfield Hospital.
Medics say the second wave is bringing an increased risk of nosocomial Covid-19 infections – meaning those acquired in hospital.
As such the NCA has put in place plans to support clinical teams to reduce the risk of these outbreaks.
During a board meeting yesterday, NCA executive chief delivery officer Jude Adams said staffing levels will be affected as the NHS faces the second wave.
She said: “We’ve got a challenge over the next two weeks to test 11,000 of our asymptomatic staff. We’ve made a start.
“Our first results have started to come through. Our numbers are very, very small in terms of the number of staff that have come back positive.
“If the modelling comes through, it will hit the second peak of Covid.”
The meeting heard that other NHS trusts have seen up to five percent of asymptomatic staff test positive.
That would amount to a ‘worst case scenario’ as it would amount to 550 of the NCA’s 11,000 frontline staff being out of action for two weeks.
The NCA’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Collaborative Change Package aims to protect patients when they come to hospital as coronavirus infections continue to rise across the region.
It will focus on key areas including environment, general hygiene and cleanliness, use of face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), health and safety, and patient visiting arrangements.
In August, the NCA introduced new infection prevention and control safety officers at its hospitals in Salford, Oldham, Bury and Rochdale in a bid to keep hospitals and community services safe from COVID-19.
The 24 new recruits – believed to be the first in the country – are helping to ensure that wards, corridors, public areas, office spaces and community settings are supported and that staff and the public follow the hospital group’s stringent infection prevention rules.
Covid-19 PPE champions have also been introduced to ensure staff comply with the IPC measures.
Dr Chris Brookes, deputy chief executive and chief medical officer for the NCA Group, says there were 75 days without a nosocomial Covid infection at a number of sites over July and August, but there is now an “increased risk” of these infections during the second wave.
“Our clinical teams routinely work hard to minimise the risk of all hospital-acquired infections,” he says.
“In July we launched our Nosocomial Infection Prevention Learning Collaborative to proactively support our teams to tackle the challenge of COVID-19 infections on our wards, and the Change Package is the result of the hard work of over 100 of our clinical teams working together to test small changes that help to avoid the transmission of infection across our wards and hospital sites.
“This Change Package has been designed using preliminary evidence to provide teams with the necessary shared learning and toolkit to reduce Nosocomial Infections, specifically COVID-19.
“We are united in our mission and shared purpose to achieve no nosocomial infections in any of our hospital sites and community settings.
“We want to reassure patients that it is safe and secure to come to hospital either as an inpatient or for a clinic appointment.
“We believe that if the measures identified within the Change Package are applied effectively and reliably across all of our wards and clinical areas the risk of a nosocomial Covid-19 infection outbreak will be reduced significantly.”
A spokesperson for the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group (NCA) – which runs hospitals and community services in Salford, Oldham, Bury and Rochdale – said: “In line with Public Health England and Chief Medical Officer advice we are processing asymptomatic Covid-19 testing of frontline staff to strengthen our efforts to prevent and control the spread of infection across our region and our organisation.”