The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh statement on testing of asymptomatic NHS staff, elective surgery and diagnostics

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16 Oct 2020

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh has been calling for NHS staff to be tested for Covid-19 on a regular and rigorous basis. Only in this way can hospitals be secured and made safe for surgery.

Over the past few months, both waiting times and the number of patients waiting for elective surgery have increased and we remain seriously concerned that many more are not seeking vital support for their health conditions. Cancer is of particular worry, with a study involving Queen’s University Belfast with University College London and DATA-CAN estimating that there will be almost 18,000 additional deaths from cancer due to cancelled or delayed treatments, including surgery, during the first lockdown in the spring.

So we need Covid -light treatment and diagnostic areas where the risk of catching or spreading the disease is reduced to its bare minimum. Whilst we, therefore, welcome the news that NHS staff in Tier 3 risk areas will be tested whether they are symptomatic or not, given the ever-increasing numbers of patients waiting for operations it is simply insufficient for such testing to be confined only to these areas with a very high incidence of Covid infections.

Instead, the RCSEd believes this prioritisation needs to be urgently extended to all NHS staff throughout all parts of the UK. Elective operations for diseases such as cancer must continue in as safe an environment as possible as we enter a second wave and clean diagnostic areas created as a matter of urgency. Early diagnosis dramatically increases a patient’s chances of survival, so it is imperative that staff working in diagnostic centres are also tested alongside their hospital counterparts.

The NHS must remain open, and strategic, ruthless, and routine testing of all NHS staff – symptomatic or not – is the only available path to keeping it so.


About The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

RCSEd was first incorporated as the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1505, and is based in Edinburgh and Birmingham. It is one of the oldest surgical corporations in the world with a worldwide membership of almost 29,000. The majority of our members practice across the UK, with 11,000 professionals based in England and Wales. The College also has a significant global presence with 11,000 members in over 100 countries worldwide. 

The College promotes the highest standards of surgical and dental practice through education, training and examinations, its liaison with external medical bodies and representation of the modern surgical and dental workforce. It is also home to the UK’s only Faculty of Surgical Trainers, open to all those with an interest in surgical training regardless of College affiliation.

Find RCSEd here, on Twitter, on Facebook and Instagram


Issued by Beattie on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. For further information, please contact the team on or Emma Bain on 07730 415 096.   

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