TORY MPs have come under pressure after voting against a motion to provide weekly coronavirus testing for NHS staff and care workers.

Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West and James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, were both among the 344 who voted against the Labour-led Commons motion.

The Labour call aimed to ensure the list of patients waiting for treatment can be safely cleared.

It comes after figures published by NHS England, and shared by Labour, revealed 840,742 people are waiting for diagnostic tests, and more than half (468,622) have been waiting more than six weeks.

Labour councillors have written to the town’s two Tory MPs asking them why they had voted against the motion. 

Sir David said: “An Opposition Motion Debate has no effect on legislation. 
“The motion had no force in law and had no proposals for how the motion would be workable in practice.

“The Shadow Health Secretary, in his opening remarks, said Labour are calling for weekly testing of NHS staff, ‘if necessary’.

“Regular testing, including weekly testing if it is deemed necessary, is essentially what the current Government policy already is, and I will continue to support this clinically informed approach.”

Susan Masters, director at the Royal College of Nursing, said testing NHS staff for Covid-19 was “critical”.

Kursaal ward Labour councillor Matt Dent added: “This approach to testing would have meant that NHS and social care workers could go to work, be with their families, shop and socialise with confidence that they aren’t carrying Covid-19.

“It could also have provided the NHS with the peace of mind and confidence to restart treatments and services that needed to be put on hold.”

Each south Essex Conservative MP voted against the Labour Commons motion.

Mark Francois, Tory MP for Rayleigh, said: “I have an interest in the matter where my partner works as an NHS radiographer in London.

“As most NHS staff now have access to testing fairly promptly if they need it, I didn’t think it necessary to vote for mandatory tests every week, which is why I voted for the Government’s amendment instead.”

Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris, a Government whip, said: “I strongly support the NHS staff testing policy as advised by the Chief Medical Officer. All NHS and care staff are already prioritised for regular testing.

“This could use up capacity for others who need to be tested. I want everyone to be able to get tested where it’s clinically advisable. This should always be a medical decision not a political one.”

MP James Duddridge added: “Extensive and targeted testing of NHS staff is already Government policy, and the motion put forward last week was simply party politics.”

He added NHS and care workers should be given priority to testing.

Southend St Laurence Labour councillor Daniel Cowan, said residents were “very concerned” about how Sir David voted.

He added: “In light of this, I didn’t feel there was anything I could do other than reach out directly to Sir David and ask him to explain his reasons for voting against this measure.”