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Sixteen health unions make demands for PPE, Covid-19 testing and pay before lockdown is eased

SIXTEEN health unions have drawn up a nine-point blueprint with measures that they say must be in place for the NHS before the nation-wide lockdown is eased.

The demands include “fast, comprehensive and accessible testing” for Covid-19, and an “ongoing, ample supply of protective kit.”

The unions, representing more than a  million NHS staff, said that problems with the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) had “sapped staff confidence, causing widespread and unnecessary anxiety.”

The two-metre social-distancing rule should also be maintained, with some staff being allowed to continue working from home, to avoid a leap in infection rates, their document warns.

The unions —  including Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Unite and GMB — are also calling for staff to be paid for every hour of overtime.

The blueprint also suggests that trust managers deploy many of the 40,000 staff who have returned to the NHS to relieve staffing shortages.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton, who also chairs the NHS group of unions, said: “Tackling Covid has been a huge challenge, but this next phase will be a crucial test too.

“This nine-point plan will enable senior NHS managers to work with staff and unions to restart safely many of the services that had to shut up shop when the pandemic hit.

“Acting on the plan could prevent a second wave of infection.

“The priority for the NHS remains beating the virus, saving lives and keeping everyone safe. The government can show its appreciation for all NHS employees now by approving moves that guarantee staff are paid properly for every hour they’re at work.”

Ms Gorton also warned the government that the public would “be horrified at talk of pay freezes” during NHS pay talks later this year.

Meanwhile, a new coronavirus antibody test has been found to be 100 per cent accurate, according to Public Health England (PHE) today, and will be made available to frontline workers first.

A Porton Down examination last week found that pharmaceutical company Roche’s serology test was “highly specific” and had an accuracy of 100 per cent.

Detection of antibodies could help indicate immunity against Covid-19.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that it was working on plans to roll out antibody testing over coming weeks, and that an announcement would be made “in due course.”

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