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Why are frontline workers not being tested by GPs and employers? NHS chief answers ITV viewers' Covid-19 questions

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, answers ITV viewers' Covid-19 questions. Credit: ITV News

The need for personal protective equipment for healthcare professions to NHS staff testing were just some of the questions put to the Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers by ITV viewers in the live Coronavirus Q&A.

Speaking on behalf of all NHS providers, including hospital trusts, mental health trusts and ambulance trusts, Saffron Cordery explains how they are following guidelines on PPE, which are also recommended by the World Health Organisation.

But Ms Cordery admitted the NHS was not testing enough people.

"We really need to make sure we are testing the right people but at the moment we know that we aren't testing enough people quickly enough," she said.

Hospital worker speaking anonymously: Why are some trusts following national guidelines that say we only wear masks when someone has symptoms, confirmed or is being shielded, surely you are putting all nurses and care assistants' life at risk?

"The issue around this protective equipment has been really hotly debated and we know that the guidelines have come out recently we hope restore some confidence that wearing different types of equipment in different environments is the safe thing to do," Ms Cordery said.

"It's really important if you're working up closely with patient with coronavirus if you have the adequate equipment, particularly if you're doing something where you're likely to come into droplet with the virus."

She added: "If you're simply working in the same space as them then we know you need less, less protective equipment.

"It's quite a complex set of guidelines but they have been endorsed by the World Health Organisation so it's really important to remember that."

A hospital worker who wants to remain anonymous asks: I would like to know if the likes of porters and domestic assistants will also be given the correct personal protective equipment - as we also are working on wards with coronavirus patients.

Ms Cordery said: "It's really important to remember that it's about proximity and the kind of interaction you are having with patients.

"We've got to remember that it's a droplet borne virus not an airborne virus, it's about coughing and sneezing in close proximity."

She added: "Whilst we obviously want porters and other health care workers to be protected, we don't think and the guidance says, that they don't need that higher level of protective equipment.

"The reason that is important...is that obviously we have to make sure that we have to make sure we maintain our supplies over a longer period of time."

Staff Nurse Heidi Burrett from Sheffield, who's been on the list for a week asked: I'm getting worse and displaying a lot of the symptoms. I also have underlying health conditions but trying to stay out of hospital. Why are our GP's and employers not testing us?

"So I think that this issue of testing has been hotly contested, what we need to see is sufficient testing capacity so that we can test patients, we can test staff, healthcare staff so that we can get them back to work.

"We're not part of government but the government's aspiration is that there will be 100,000 tested every day by the end of April, at the moment we're doing 12 or 13,000 when we're doing really well so there's a long way to go.

She added: "The NHS is trying to prioritise so that those staff that are most needed on the frontline get tested as soon as possibly because at the moment we've got a really high vacancy rate, because we have got people self-isolating, we've got people who are unwell and we've got people who are vulnerable who have to stay at home.

"There's lots in there about testing, we need to make sure we are testing the right people but at the moment we know that we aren't testing enough people quickly enough."

Dominic from Bolton asks: Why are so many cancer patients having treatment and surgery stopped? People are being told that staff are being moved from cancer patients to help with the Covid-19 outbreak, is this true?

"We know that lots of the focus of the NHS and particularly frontline workers has been on managing this outbreak, this pandemic.

"We know that what is being called eclectic care, so those kind of routine operations have been cancelled now so we can free up not only the staff but also the intensive care capacity things like ventilators etc to look after people.

"Where someone's condition is life-threatening then they will still be receiving treatment.

"At the moment it is where we can put resources to save as many lives as possible

"It's worth remembering that nobody takes these decisions lightly and it's about balancing up the needs of everyone across the country and also critically stopping the spread of coronavirus, so this is often about delaying rather than cancelling.

"We represent hospital trusts, mental health trusts, community trusts, ambulance trusts and we know they're all grappling with the issue about the routine care that they continue to provide as well as the emergency care they need to provide for coronavirus.

"Over the last month or so, hospitals have freed up 30,000 beds in order to cope with this surge in demand - they've done a huge amount to boost capacity but unfortunately that does sometimes mean treatment or operations need to be delayed."

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