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24Nov

Health Secretary calls for COVID-19 testing infrastructure to be preserved

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told MPs that the UK should retain COVID-19 diagnostics facilities for use in testing for wider illnesses and check-ups. The infrastructure created to manage COVID-19 testing should be retained and put to further use such as routine testing procedures. Giving evidence to a Commons committee hearing, the Health Secretary stated that he wanted “this massive diagnostics capacity to be core to how we treat people in the NHS” in the long term.

“Having built this, we must hold on to it,” Hancock told a joint session of the health and science committees. “And afterwards we must use it not just for coronavirus, but everything” he added. Hancock spoke about the cultural norm dictating people’s behaviour when they experience flu-like symptoms. People feel the need to “soldier on” through the illness and continue to work and leave home regardless. Hancock said that this mindset must be changed in the UK so that people who suspect an illness feel empowered to ask for a test immediately.

Hancock’s hopes for retaining the diagnostic infrastructure will mean good news for the industry which has been undervalued in terms of Government funding and product uptake. In recent years NHS England and others have pointed to an under-capacity of CT and MRI scanners in the country; while others have been calling for expansion of the diagnostic workforce. Hancock said that the diagnostic capacity built up during COVID-19 times should be used to keep people healthy, rather than relying on treating people once they have already fallen ill.

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