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last updated:01/05/2020 @ 8:07 am
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COVID-19 update 24/04/2020


A rapid flow of information this week – three additional updates which we hope will be useful as the pandemic evolves.

1. ‘First Experience of COVID-19 screening of health-care workers in England’
Published online in the Lancet this week, introduced by our colleague, and one of the authors, Dr Elizabeth Murphy who writes:

“Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust research, led by Dr Chris Duncan shows that the rate of infection for frontline clinical NHS staff is no higher than for those in non-clinical roles. It also shows that screening of symptomatic NHS staff including some GP practice staff has allowed staff to return to work sooner. The screening programme involved email communication with OHS and swabbing by a team of screening staff deployed by the Trust. Results were processed by the laboratory team working 24 hours per day and emailed to the employees by OHS. The rapidly changing profile of symptoms and assessments required a fast and flexible approach to the programme and essential clear communication strategies.”


These findings from Newcastle are encouraging and timely.

The second and third items which follow reflect a great deal of work behind the scenes which has allowed FOM to release further information/guidance updates. Both are intended as statements of principles, rather than detailed toolkits; they have been shared with PHE, NHSE and DHSC.

2. Testing, Health surveillance and COVID-19 testing
Testing across the country is to be extended from today according to the latest PHE guidance:  ‘Coronavirus  (COVID-19): getting tested’ which is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested

FOM’s latest guidance adds to the information sheet, TESTING, TESTING, TESTING issued on 03.04.2020 which can be accessed here. We are indebted to the principal author, Chair of FOM’s Ethics committee, Dr Steve Boorman CBE, who has confirmed the principles which should underlie all testing and health surveillance, and has also given specific consideration to issues of consent and confidentiality in relation to testing for SARS-CoV-2 during the pandemic.


3. Occupational health and staff deployment is a further FOM guidance note which outlines the role and remit of OH services in the current situation. It has been co-authored by a number of senior occupational physicians, working across the NHS, public and private sector organisations. It has been reviewed and endorsed by Dr Will Ponsonby, President of SOM and Dr Shriti Pattani, Chair of the NHS Health at Work Network.


A reminder at this week’s meeting of medical royal colleges and faculties with the CMO was that COVID-19 infection can be associated with rapid clinical deterioration. The importance of someone keeping contact with those advised to isolate because of the infection was emphasised, particularly for those living alone who are excluded from work because of symptoms and/or a positive viral swab test. Occupational Physicians and OH services may be well placed to offer advice to organisations and individuals about the importance of this.


Dr Anne de Bono
President, Faculty of Occupational Medicine


Added: 01/05/2020 Posted In: COVID-19