HEALTH Secretary Jeane Freeman has admitted that NHS staff are “not yet” being tested regularly for Covid-19 – amid concerns over the number of people entering hospitals and catching the virus. 

Between March 18 and June 3, 908 patients have developed Covid-19 in Scottish hospitals, and 218 of them have died, after being admitted to wards for other conditions. 

Ms Freeman said that the Scottish Government was “looking at the possibility of testing staff” in certain areas of hospitals on a regular basis. 

She stressed that she does not believe the transmission of the virus to patients entering wards without it is concentrated in certain hospitals but does not know “whether it is a problem throughout the NHS”. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: More than 200 die after first falling sick in Scottish hospitals

Speaking on Sunday Politics Scotland, she added: “Cancer UK, for example, has asked for what they have described as the creation of a safe space – that would be for the increase in cancer work that is part of remobilising the NHS and we would look at testing there for both staff and possibly patients.” 

The Health Secretary said more analysis was needed to establish whether all 908 people caught coronavirus in hospital or whether some were carrying it, undetected, when they entered wards. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Top doctor warns A&E departments must not return to the way they were

She said: “What we don’t yet know, the work is underway, is whether or not all of those of some of them, contracted the virus when they were in hospital or whether they had the virus and it was in the incubation period. That work is underway and I hope by the end of June, we will have validated data on that, which is of course important. 

“We are now testing all 70 and over admissions – we have been doing that for some time. Actually, what the World Health Organisation said was that as you build up your testing capacity, the right way of using that is on those who are symptomatic and then move towards those who are asymtomatic. We have started that in care homes and we are now looking at that for hospitals.” 

READ MORE: Calls for independent inquiry into more than 200 hospital-acquired Covid-19 deaths

The Health Secretary was unable to give a timescale for when regular testing of NHS staff could begin. 

She added: “What we do know is where we are introducing more elective work, there is discussion underway with the clinical teams about testing patients immediately before surgery and alongside  that, testing the staff who would be involved in the treatment.  

“You do need to involve the staff in these discussions because you are testing asymptomatic people – so you need to make sure that everyone is involved and everyone is content, before you can introduce it and that you have the evidence to support it.  

“You need to engage people in order to be sure that they are convinced as clinicians that this is the right thing to do.”

The Scottish Conservatives have strongly criticised Ms Freeman for her stance, claiming the Health Secretary appears to have "completely lost her grip" on the Covid-19 crisis.

Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative leader said: “The Health Secretary appears to have completely lost her grip on the Covid crisis.

“The SNP government promised to dramatically increase hospital staff testing but still, weeks later, not only is nothing in place, Ms Freeman cannot tell us when it will be.

“Ms Freeman couldn’t even give the public basic information about where patients who contracted Covid in hospital died."

He added: “The SNP abandoned care homes to be ravaged by Covid, they appear to have done the same thing to hospitals also.

“Jeane Freeman’s excuses keep getting thinner meanwhile thousands of tests are unused each day.

“Nicola Sturgeon says she takes responsibility for her government’s approach to Covid and I agree – the First Minister is responsible for these catastrophic failures.”

Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader, Alison Johnstone, added: “I first proposed introducing regular testing for health and care staff in April. The Health Secretary finally confirmed she would introduce regular testing for social care workers almost three weeks ago, yet there’s still no sign of it. NHS staff have absolutely no certainty if or when they will get tested.

“We’re in the middle of the biggest public health crisis we have ever faced yet thousands of tests go unused everyday. To properly protect staff and patients we need to know who has the virus, so regular testing is essential. Where’s the urgency?”