Prioritised testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) will allow key health and social care workers to return to work, the Scottish Government has announced.

NHS Western Isles has welcomed the newly published guidance for NHS Scotland to prioritise testing to enable health and social care staff to get back to work, based on the pressures Health Boards are already facing.

As testing capacity increases, this will be extended to other key workers.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “It is essential that front-line health and social care staff can remain at work. To help to save lives, we must continue to prioritise testing in hospitals. All remaining capacity must be used to ensure that critical staff can return to work as soon as possible.

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

“NHS boards will prioritise testing, based on where the pressure is felt most in their workforce and in social care.”

Boards are being asked to prioritise testing the symptomatic household members of health and social care staff – in cases where the staff have no symptoms but have to remain in isolation because a family member does.

This will mean that where the household member tests negative, the health or social care staff member will not have to isolate for 14 days, and this will have the greatest impact in reducing working days lost.

For example, if a nurse is symptomatic and receives a negative test result three days after the onset of symptoms, the number of working days could be reduced by four because they would not have to complete the full seven days of self-isolation.

However, if that nurse is in household isolation because their son has a fever and cough, they would normally be required to stay in household isolation for 14 days. If the son is tested and receives a negative test result three days after symptom onset, the number of working days lost would be reduced by 11.

Boards will prioritise in areas where staff are most needed. While one board may have pressures in their midwifery services and so prioritise testing in this group, for example, another may need to prioritise Intensive Care Units (ICU) consultants.