Contact tracers force hospital to close

Tom Morgan
Doctor
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A hospital department was forced to suspend services after a doctor and nine immediate colleagues were told to isolate following a call from newly-recruited Covid-19 contact tracers.

The case has prompted calls from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) for clinicians to be allowed to take a "pragmatic" approach to the new NHS test and trace system.

Donal O'Donoghue, registrar of the RCP and a consultant renal physician at Salford Royal Hospital, said a doctor had messaged him to say a department had been forced shut because 10 clinicians had been contacted.

He said strict adherence to the test and trace regime relaunched nationally last week was a real risk for the NHS: "If we just apply the rules, within that healthcare environment, then you take so many people out, it becomes really difficult to provide the service."

Mr O'Donoghue suggested more needed to be done to protect healthcare workers as social distancing and the use of PPE is often impossible away from the Covid wards. 

Other senior doctors, who did not want to be named, have raised repeated concerns that there are not sufficient safeguards in canteens and break rooms.

Weston-super-Mare was forced to shut to new admission after 100 staff were shown to be infected and many experts believe testing in hospital should become weekly.

The Covid policy that applies to the rest of the population should be replaced by a "pragmatic" one for clinical staff, Mr Mr O'Donoghue argued.

"It’s an infection protection and control issue in a hospital environment, basically," he added.

"There are big staff numbers, and obviously patients in and out. These are higher risk places ... that’s why I think we need to take a pragmatic approach and use the expertise that we have.

"We’ve got a lot of infection control expertise within hospitals. We sorted MRSA out by attention to detail. There’s expertise and there’s understanding of that. We have to give a certain amount of leeway to the institutions to implement the guidance in a way that works for them, in a way that is pragmatic and measured so as to optimise the safety of patients first, and the safety of staff."