SCOTLAND is “quadrupling” its intensive care capacity in a bid to fight the coronavirus outbreak amid concerns frontline NHS workers are not being tested for the disease. 

Opposition MSPs have raised fears that the lack of testing for frontline health and social care workers “could quickly get to a situation where doctors and nurses are forced off work”. 

But Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told Holyrood that officials will “continue to prioritise testing in hospitals” while protective equipment has been sent to NHS and social care frontline workers. 


Ms Freeman said: “We are working to procure and distribute the necessary supplies of the type and levels of PPE required to safeguard frontline health and social care workers.”  

 She added that the Scottish government will “continue to prioritise testing in hospitals”.   

 “All the capacity that remains (for testing) must be use to ensure critical staff can return to work as soon as possible”, she said.

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“Today I am publishing guidance for the NHS to support the use of testing capacity in our laboratories that is not needed in terms of providing essential care so that it can enable health and social care staff to be back at work when it is safe to do so.  

“NHS boards can prioritise testing best on where the pressure is being focused more in their workfroce and social care.” 

Earlier, Scottish Government officials were unable to say how many NHS workers had been tested. 

Green MSPs are now calling for NHS staff with symptoms of coronavirus to be tested. 

 Scottish Greens health spokesperson Alison Johnstone said: “Those working in health and care are the most important people in the country right now.  

“It’s absolutely critical that governments heed the warnings from doctors to give frontline staff priority access to tests. Because anyone showing symptoms must self-isolate for two weeks, we could quickly get to a situation where doctors and nurses are forced off work.” 

She added: “Jeane Freeman has told MSPs frontline staff will be prioritised, but the current guidance to NHS staff remains that staff with symptoms will not be tested. That needs to be turned round fast. 

 “This also applies to family doctors and social care staff too, who are already stretched to the limit. Those workers also say they urgently need adequate protective equipment like masks and gloves to keep them safe.” 

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Ms Freeman also confirmed that Scotland’s intensive care capacity will be racked up in a bid to quadruple provision. 

She said: “We are well advanced in work to double our ICU capacity to 360 beds. 

“Facilities have been repurposed, staff are being trained and beds are being freed up. 

“Our response to double ICU capacity is the international standard in response to a pandemic.” 

She added: “But given the scale of the challenge, we are now planning to quadruple our ICU capacity to 700 as quickly as we possibly can. 

“A pipeline of ventilators is slated to come to Scotland in weeks to enable this increase and we are working with suppliers to do all that we can so they can be brought here as quickly as humanly possible.”