Under the ramped-up “Pillar One” system, 96 NHS labs working as part of 26 regional networks will offer the 100,000 daily tests to patients and staff.
It was reported on Tuesday that the Department of Health, via NHS Test and Trace, will fund the increase, but that trusts will have to pay for any additional tests over the new capacity target themselves. The health service currently has a “planned capacity” of 49,000 test a day, but on some days last week completed around 55,000.
The additional NHS tests will be counted as part of Boris Johnson’s target to lay on 500,000 a day nationally by the end of October.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “There is significant funding for NHS labs to increase capacity, and there are tests available for NHS staff and patients who need them.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have prioritised testing for health and care workers, with staff in hospitals able to access a test through their trust, and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has made clear in Parliament that the top priority for testing are those in acute clinical care.”
Under a “priority list” for England’s overall testing strategy, published on Monday, the first in line will be those receiving acute clinical care and the staff administering it.
Second will be care home residents and workers, while other NHS staff, such as GPs, will be third. Targeted testing for outbreak management and surveillance is fourth, and teachers with symptoms fifth. After that come members of the public with symptoms.
There are currently 1,319 patients in hospital with Covid-19 in England (see graphic below), of whom 181 are on ventilators. The number has doubled over the past fortnight, and planners expect the increase in admissions to follow that of cases after a lag of roughly two weeks.