NHS Fife has introduced a new drive-through testing programme for select group of health and social care workers to support the resilience of its services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Like many other parts of the country, a number of health and social care workers in Fife have had to self-isolate for 14 days if a member of their household displayed symptoms consistent with coronavirus, and seven days if they display symptoms themselves.
The new drive-through testing programme has begun to test prioritised frontline workers and their immediate household contacts to enable those assessed as not carrying the virus to return to caring for patients.
Testing in Fife is available only for those who meet strict criteria and is limited to those critical in the frontline service delivery of health and social care services and their shared household contacts. Furthermore, only those within 72 hours of the onset of a new continuous cough and/or temperature in excess of 37.8° will be tested. Those presenting at the site without an appointment will not be tested and will be turned away.
Prioritised staff will be contacted and advised of their appointment time. If several members of a family are symptomatic, only the household member with the most recent date of onset and/or most clear cut symptoms will be prioritised for testing.
Those tested will be instructed to stay in their cars at all times and only open car windows in response to a health care worker wearing personal protective equipment. The test itself comprises of a single swab inserted into the throat then the nose, which is then taken to NHS Fife’s own laboratories at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy with the result known the next working day. Importantly, hospitalised patients will continue to be prioritised for testing.
If the result is positive for a staff member or their household contact, they must remain off work for 7 days post onset of symptoms, after which they can return to work if they have remained fever free for 48 hours. Should the result be negative, the staff member will be risk assessed by Occupational Health and in most cases will be permitted to return to work. While only healthcare workers have been tested thus far, the programme is to expand to include testing of critical social care staff working in Fife from next week.
NHS Fife’s Director of Public Health, Dona Milne, said: “Our new staff testing arrangements help make us more resilient in the face of unprecedented levels of pressure on our services. Health and social care staff across Fife are currently pulling out all the stops to ensure that we can continue to provide the best possible standard of care for those who need it most. If we are to do that then we need to make the very best use of the skills, dedication and experience of our entire workforce.
“The dedication shown by our staff over recent weeks has been second-to-none, and for those having to self-isolate this been a source of some frustration. By testing those priority staff, we will be enabling many to return to work to support their colleagues in doing what we know they do best – providing the best possible care to the people of Fife.
“Thank you to all the teams who have come together to make this new testing facility work.”
First published by NHS Fife 2nd April 2020; Picture: drivethrough staff team