A testing programme praised by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has saved more than 8,000 working days in the care and health sectors in Tayside.
NHS Tayside was the first health board in Scotland to begin a testing programme on March 12, using a drive-through facility for health and social care staff, plus members of their household.
Those who tested negative could return to work where appropriate.
This has meant staff have been able to return to work quicker than previously if they had to isolate at home, unsure if they had the virus.
The programme was hailed as an “exemplar of testing” by Ms Sturgeon.
In the first three weeks, 1,890 tests were performed with 417 positive results.
The remaining three-quarters who tested negative were able to return to work to support NHS Tayside’s response to Covid-19.
The health board worked in collaboration with Dundee University on the testing project.
A report on the results estimates that negative results equates to 8,000 working days that would have otherwise been lost.
The report, led by Dr Benjamin Parcell, consultant in infection control at Ninewells Hospital explores the results of the programme’s first three weeks, but NHS Tayside has now conducted more than 4,000 tests.
Scottish Government figures reveal that more than one in 20 NHS Scotland staff have been absent from work for Covid-19 related reasons during the pandemic.
Sarah Allstaff, a sexual health consultant, moved on to the testing team as there has been a lack of demand for her usual services.
She said: “We didn’t expect to be groundbreaking and the rest of the health boards and other parts of the UK would be taking a similar approach, but we were the first it seems.
“One of the benefits with our work is that if you are tested, there is a good chance you will get the result later that day rather than having to wait. That helps get people back to work.
“We haven’t met our capacity yet. Nicola Sturgeon praised the programme and we’re constantly getting feedback from the Scottish Government that our numbers are very impressive.
“There is a can do attitude in the team and people from different disciplines have come to bring their expertise and that is the pathway that has led to it being successful.”
The report does not explain to what extent testing has contributed to preventing transmission, but Dundee University’s Professor James Chalmers said: “It is clear that staff testing has had an important impact in maintaining the resilience of our health service during the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland.
“What will be most important to look at over the coming months is the extent to which rapidly introducing testing of those in the social care sector in particular will have contributed to reducing cases and deaths in Tayside.”
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