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Health / Health board looks to recruit Covid-19 testing staff as response to virus continues

Gilbert Bain Hospital. Photo: Shetland News

NHS Shetland is stepping up its efforts to secure more staff for its response to Covid-19.

The health board is currently advertising for a Covid-19 tester and a testing co-ordinator.

More jobs related to the response to Covid-19 are expected to be advertised in the near future.

NHS Shetland public health principal Elizabeth Robinson explained that the health board had been using existing staff for the response to Covid-19, but they are returning to their dayjobs as more services resume.

The tester will “perform viral swabbing for Covid-19 as part of the Covid-19 testing team, including swabbing at the pod [in Lerwick] and as part of mass testing”.

They will also undertake other tasks to support the local test and protect response.

The testing co-ordinator, or health protection practitioner, will provide “day-to-day professional support and advice on Covid-19 testing to NHS Shetland health professionals as well as support and advice on screening and immunisation issues”.

They will oversee the operation of the Covid testing pod and “associated mass testing plan and the UK Government Covid-19 testing scheme”.

Both posts are due to run until 31 October 2021, highlighting that the response to Covid-19 will continue for some time.

The health board is also recruiting a PPE procurement officer, who will deal with purchasing protective equipment, stock control and distribution.

Robinson said: “We have been using staff who were unable to do their normal jobs up to now, because their normal services weren’t running during Phase 2 of the pandemic. (eg dental nurses, some healthcare assistants).

“Now that services are getting back to normal and we have a sense that we will be providing these services for some time to come, we are recruiting to fixed term posts.”

Robinson said NHS Shetland has had to develop a “whole new team of people” to manage the impact – and future impact – of Covid-19.

This has included people taking swabs and overseeing the swabbing service, as well as contacting those taking tests.

At the moment around 25 to 35 tests are being carried out in Shetland each day on average.

There are also three staff on hand to carry out contact tracing, although Robinson said this number will increase to seven next week.

“We have tried to fill these roles from within NHS Shetland, but we may need to advertise as demand grows, particularly for contact tracers, who contribute to the Scotland-wide workforce as well as to our own needs in Shetland,” she said.

“We are required to have three staff available, covering 8am – 8pm, seven days a week, so you can imagine that that is quite a staffing commitment.

“We have been extremely lucky to have Prof Shantini Paranjothy working with us in Shetland as a consultant in public health medicine, but we will also be recruiting to a senior health protection nurse role to provide some resilience within the health protection team.

“The core public health team in Shetland is very small, but is an on-call service, 24/7, so it has been essential to increase our capacity.”

The job adverts relating to Covid-19 testing mention that the successful applicant may be involved in “mass testing”.

Robinson said: “There might be a situation where we have to test large numbers of people in a short space of time.

“An example of this was when we had a care-home outbreak earlier in the year and had to test all the staff.

“In that case we went to where the staff were, rather than requiring them all to come to Lerwick. If this situation arose again, we would ask the Covid swabbers to be part of this team.”

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