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Press release: COVID-19 testing delays continue to keep doctors away from work

RCP's sixth survey tracking the impact of the pandemic on the workforce has found delays in accessing COVID-19 tests continue to cause disruption among hospital doctor teams.

Delays in accessing COVID-19 tests continue to cause disruption among hospital doctor teams. A survey of members by the Royal College of Physicians has found that  few  doctors are off work, but for 40% of those who are it is because they are self-isolating while awaiting a test for someone in their household.

Among those doctors who have been able to access testing for themselves over the past 2 weeks, 80% were able to access testing within 24 hours, down from 88% in July. This comes as over half of doctors (53%) say COVID-19 admissions have increased in their hospital over the past fortnight.

As the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 draws closer, almost half of doctors (47%) says they’ve been involved in conversations with their organisations about preparing for it, and 90% feel their organisation is at least somewhat prepared for a second wave. However, 35% of doctors were still unsure that their organisation would have the necessary PPE to cope with a second peak of the virus.

Despite government guidance that all doctors should be formally assessed for their level of personal risk with regards to COVID-19, only 64% of doctors have had a formal assessment.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Professor Andrew Goddard president of the Royal College of Physicians said: “These results show the NHS is geared up for the impact of a second wave of COVID-19, and it’s a relief to see that so many of our members and their organisations feel prepared.

“However, testing remains an enormous issue. We must ensure that rapid testing and results are available for health and social care staff or we’ll end up tackling winter and the second wave with one hand tied behind our backs.

“The biggest issue is testing for household members. Delays in accessing these tests mean that hundreds of doctors are having to self-isolate while they wait, and are unavailable to provide care. As the infection rate rises, the need for tests will rise, and a large proportion of the workforce could be out of action simply for want of a test.”

Notes to editors

This survey was sent out via an email to approximately 25,500 RCP members in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland on Wednesday 22 September 2020 and was filled in by 898 people over a period of 24 hours.

This is the sixth survey the RCP has sent to its members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first five surveys took place on 1–2 April, 22–23 April, 13–14 May, 3-4 June and 21-22 July.

Further information about our surveys can be found on our website.