The NHS will struggle to occupy the Nightingale Covid surge hubs that are being opened to deal with the Omicron wave, a health chief said.
Dr. Azeem Majeed, director of primary services and public health at Imperial College London, also said NHS England staff are struggling to access Covid-19 tests and the government should prioritize key workers on distribution.
Dr. Majeed said it will be difficult to find enough staff to operate the temporary NHS hubs that have been set up for overcrowded patients amid rising coronavirus intake.
On Times Radio, the director of primary care and public health at Imperial College London said, “It’s going to be very difficult.
“We saw these centers set up in March and April last year when the NHS was struggling to find staff for these hospitals.
“Hopefully these won’t be needed, but if we need these extra beds it will be difficult to find staff for these patients – I’m not entirely sure where those staff will come from as hospitals are struggling” now with their current workload . “
Regarding the availability of tests, he said, “I recently had problems getting a test. As an NHS staff member, I have to take a test twice a week, but when I log on to the online site there is often none in stock.
“Not only NHS workers but other key workers like social workers, police, fire brigade, etc. also need these tests, so it is worrying that they are so scarce right now.
“I believe that priority should be given to people in key groups, whether in health care or other key workers like public transport, to ensure that our NHS, our schools and our society can function well.
On Thursday the Welsh government announced it would loan England four million lateral flow tests, bringing the country to a total of 10 million.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Wales has a significant inventory of lateral flow tests that is sufficient to meet our needs in the coming weeks.”
National Pharmacy Association Chairman Andrew Lane said more lateral flow tests are being distributed to pharmacies, but the offer is “still very sketchy” and he expects the kits to be picked up “within hours” of today’s delivery will.
He added that pharmacy staff are being abused by patients who are frustrated because they cannot find a test.
At the BBC breakfast, Mr. Lane said, “I spoke to the general manager of Alliance Healthcare who are our wholesalers who distribute the tests to pharmacies and she assured me they spend two million a day and we’re starting to see that come through .
“It’s still very sketchy though, so I’m going to say that not every pharmacy will have a box today, but most pharmacies in the country will have a box so we just ask the public to persevere and treat us with respect too .
“We’ve seen a lot of abuse in the past few weeks when the tests didn’t take place, but the teams are doing their best to help the public with it.”
Mr. Lane added, “I believe there will be 54 tests in a box and many of our members report that this box disappeared within the first few hours of arriving at the pharmacy.”
Chris Hughes, who runs a PCR testing lab, said the number of staff trained to run the tests limited the availability of additional tests.
Mr. Hughes, the executive director of industrial testing company PerkinElmer, told BBC Breakfast, “We have gone from a few thousand cases in the summer to six-digit numbers per day.
“We added capacity in December and will add more capacity next week so we can ramp up in January.
“The limiting factor is primarily the people – we need people with certain skills and they are trained very specifically in the laboratory.
“It takes about two weeks for someone to be fully competent.”
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