Rapid tests and an adequate supply of protective equipment must be put in place when the NHS reopens its canceled services during the peak of the coronavirus epidemic, health unions said.
Unions have presented a nine-point plan for the NHS to reopen safely as the lockout restrictions are relaxed.
And staff working during the crisis should be paid overtime and a freeze on public sector wages should be ruled out, they say.
The government said it was working “24 hours a day” to provide more PPE.
NHS England has asked hospitals to restart routine, non-emergency operations and procedures that have been suspended to create more capacity for Covid-19 patients.
But 16 unions, including Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, Unite and GMB, have said they want the NHS to continue applying a “safety first” approach as clinics and ambulatory operations resume.
They said they wanted to avoid a recurrence of PPE supply problems that “undermined” staff confidence and “caused widespread and unnecessary anxiety”.
Access to easily accessible PPE was also important, as employers in other sectors of the economy began to open their workplaces and provide a source protection kit for staff, they added.
Unison’s Sara Gorton, who also chairs the NHS’s union group, said the health sector faced yet another “crucial test” after handling the epidemic.
She added, “As hospitals are getting busier and clinics and other services are starting to reopen, the safety of staff and patients is paramount.
“But that cannot happen without an abundant and constant supply of PPE.
“Tackling Covid has been a huge challenge, but this next phase will also be a crucial test. “
Unions represent more than a million workers across the UK, including nurses, midwives, 999 call managers, cleaners, porters and paramedics.
Other measures in their plan include maintaining two-meter social distance rules, allowing some staff members to work from home and regularly redeploying staff working in high-risk areas to those under less pressure.
According to the unions, some 40,000 workers who have returned to the NHS could be displaced to assist the restricted areas.
They also asked that staff be paid for each hour worked.
“Discussions about the future freeze on wages to pay the bill for the pandemic will outrage nurses, health workers and the public,” said Hannah Reed of the Royal College of Nursing.
The Daily Telegraph reported this week that a confidential Treasury assessment of the coronavirus crisis estimates it will cost the public treasury nearly £ 300 billion and may require action, including a two-year wage freeze in the public sector.
Health experts have warned that it may take months to bring the NHS back to normal.
Cancer screening has stopped in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – with few invitations sent to England.
Figures released this week show that the number of A&E visits to England has halved. since the start of the coronavirus epidemic, falling to their lowest level since the start of the recordings.
Danny Mortimer, CEO of NHS Employers, “However there should not be a return to business like the short, medium or long term, but a reset.
“Health leaders want to establish the impact of the past few months on staff and the best way to improve the way they are taken care of in the long term. “
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