DROITWICH’S MP Nigel Huddleston has defended his decision not to vote for weekly Coronavirus testing for NHS and care staff.
The motion was tabled in parliament last week by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, along with Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth and Liz Kendall.
Mr Ashworth, opening the debate, said the House thanked the heroic work of frontline NHS staff who had saved lives throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and paid tribute to at least 312 NHS and Social Care staff who had died of coronavirus in the UK.
“We have brought this motion to the House today to provide an opportunity for the House to reflect on the Government’s response in handling the pandemic, to thank our brave, hard-working NHS and social care staff for their extraordinary efforts—including, if I may say so, our student nurses who do a tremendous job on the frontline.
“I hope the Minister praises them and recognises their worth when she gets up to make her remarks—and to pay tribute to and remember over 300 health and social care staff who gave their lives during the pandemic.
“We have also tabled the motion to put to the Government a constructive, practical suggestion that we now consider necessary to prepare our National Health Service to meet the monumental growing burden of unmet clinical need and set out what we think is necessary to prepare us in case of a second wave of the virus.”
He said the key to ‘resetting the NHS’ and the ‘safe easing of lockdown’ was a fully effective system that finds cases, tests cases, traces contacts, isolates, and then properly financially supports those who have been asked to isolate.
“We believe a key element of that must now be the regular testing, weekly if necessary, of all NHS and social care staff.
“This is what we are suggesting to the Government today, and we hope they will accept our constructive suggestion and find a way to make it work.”
But Mr Huddleston and 330 other Conservative members all voted against the proposal.
Mr Huddleston said: “I am in favour of NHS staff testing policy as advised by the Chief Medical Officer.
“The Shadow Health Secretary in his opening remarks in the recent opposition debate said Labour were calling for weekly testing of NHS staff, ‘if necessary’.
“But ‘if necessary’ was not in the wording of their motion, which instead called for blanket weekly testing without any qualification at all – proving this was nothing more than a political stunt by the opposition that could not even agree among themselves what they were asking for.
“Regular testing, including weekly testing if it is deemed necessary, is essentially what the current Government policy is and I will continue to support this clinically-informed approach.”
He added the Government had continuously listened to the advice of clinical experts, and said the same was true with our approach to testing of NHS staff.
“Of course, we will continue to prioritise testing of all NHS staff with symptoms, regular testing of asymptomatic staff in situations where there is an incident or outbreak, and regular surveillance testing of staff.”
He added the Government’s approach was to prioritise testing for most high-risk areas ie staff working with patients on wards as they would benefit from regular testing far more than NHS staff working in offices or administrative roles where they did not come into regular contact with patients.
“I believe, with the guidance from medical experts, that this approach is crucial as, when prevalence of the virus is very low, the risk of misleading results is higher, which would actually undermine the value of testing.
“Rest assured that the Government is continually reviewing clinical evidence to ensure regular testing of staff without symptoms is undertaken where appropriate so we can utilise testing in the most effective way.”