More than 1,500 Sheffield hospital staff were tested for coronavirus in first fortnight, new study reveals

More than 1,500 staff at Sheffield hospitals were tested for coronavirus during the last two weeks of March, a new study has revealed.

By Robert Cumber
Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 4:59 pm

The early roll-out of testing at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals played an important role in keeping staff levels up, the paper found, with the vast majority of workers who were displaying symptoms testing negative for COVID-19.

Out of 1,533 tests carried out at the trust during the fortnight beginning March 16, just 282 – which is less than a fifth – came back positive.

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Sheffield City Trust is working with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to operate a drive-through blood test service in the FlyDSA Arena Sheffield car park.

The figures are contained within a paper published in the journal Euroserveillance analysing the impact of testing at the trust, which employs around 17,000 staff.

“Our data demonstrate that the majority of staff who reported symptoms during the first fortnight of staff testing were negative for SARS-CoV-2,” state the report’s authors.

“In a time where healthcare systems are particularly stretched, it is important to be able to maximise the available workforce. Facilitating testing may substantially decrease absence in staff when SARS-CoV-2 can be excluded.”

More than 1,500 staff out of approximately 17,000 employed by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals were tested for coronavirus during the first fortnight after testing was introduced

The early roll-out of testing at the trust has been praised by experts, who say the amount of testing taking place in Sheffield explains why the city has had so many confirmed cases.

As of Monday, April 13, Sheffield had 1,237 confirmed cases of coronavirus – the eighth most of anywhere outside London.

The paper describes how from March 17, hospital staff with a fever and a cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache or muscle pain were asked to swab themselves in on-site assessment pods previously used for patients.

The majority of test results were available that day or the day after, and staff with a negative result were able to return to work if they felt well enough to do so.

Staff testing was introduced just days after community testing in the UK ceased and anyone with a fever or a new persistent cough was told to self-isolate for seven days

The paper says this ‘exacerbated pre-existing staff shortages in frontline services in the NHS’, with a survey of more than 5,000 doctors on March 17 showing that more than a quarter were unable to work because either they or someone in their household were displaying symptoms.