Government should mobilise volunteers to take testing to staff, says UNISON  

Dave Prentis says millions who offered help could assist by driving vans or in other tasks

Enlisting the help of some of the million plus people who’ve volunteered their services to the NHS during the pandemic could be key to increasing testing of health and care workers, says UNISON today (Wednesday).  

Health secretary Matt Hancock has admitted that drive-in centres are not ideal for everyone, particularly those without a car, or who live in rural areas.

The union says the strategy needs to focus instead on taking tests to NHS and care workers, rather than expecting hard-pressed staff to travel long distances. 

Volunteers could assist by driving mobile vans and explaining procedures to people while trained medical staff carry out the actual testing, says UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Almost three weeks ago the government set a goal of 100,000 daily tests. That target was meant to have been reached by the end of April, but that’s just days away.   

“Clearly ministers’ strategy isn’t working, despite checks being vital in winning the fight against Covid. We need to get tests to staff, not expect them to attend test centres.

“There has to be a better way of taking testing to staff on the frontline. It’s not sensible to expect poorly individuals to travel miles from home to be swabbed. That could mean several hours’ drive for some living in remote areas, which is totally unrealistic.

“People also need to be tested within days of the onset of symptoms. It’s no surprise take up has been so low. The government must make it easier for staff if there’s to be any possibility of meeting its 100,000 a day goal. 

“We want to work with the government to identify how to use the help of the army of volunteers who’ve signed up to assist the NHS.

“Many have yet to be given anything to do. They could be mobilised to take kits to NHS and care workers.”

Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.

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