Dr Whitford speaking to Parliament via video link

Urgent Health Questions

Urgent Health Questions 19/5/20

On Tuesday, I took the opportunity during Urgent Health Questions to ask Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health) whether any comparison is being made between self-administered tests and those carried out by healthcare staff, following concerns that staff are being sent back into clinical settings having tested false negative, putting vulnerable persons at risk in care homes and hospitals.

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP)

“The London School of Economics reported that there were over 23,000 excess deaths in care homes in England and Wales, but only 12,000 were put down as due to covid. How does the Secretary of State explain the other 10,000? Testing of care home staff is critical to reduce the spread, but how will he improve the return of results to local GPs and public health teams? Concerns have been raised that a quarter of tests are false negatives, which could send staff with the virus back into care homes and hospitals. It is a difficult sample to take, so is any comparison being made between self-administered tests and those carried out by healthcare staff? Finally, where is the Green Paper that was promised in 2017?”

Matt Hancock

“On the point about tests, absolutely, work was done to assess the difference in efficacy between professionally administered and self-administered tests, and it found that their efficacy was very similar and not significantly different. That is why across England and Scotland, and indeed the whole UK, we use home tests, which are an important part of our testing regime.

The hon. Lady asks about the increased number of deaths, sadly, that there have been in care homes. She is absolutely right that there has been an increase. We analyse the causes of all the different factors that may have had an impact, which is something our clinical advisers are looking at. The same is true in Scotland, and I am sure that the Scottish medical advisers are looking into the same. When it comes to a Green Paper, at the moment we are working on crisis response, and I think that is the appropriate thing to do.”