The Mental Health Commission has expressed concern about current testing of staff for Covid-19 across mental health services.

A paper published by the independent statutory body has said the national testing system was "inconsistent and untimely" between March and July this year.

It has called for a system of testing to be strengthened to protect service users ahead of a possible second wave.

The Mental Health Commission supported 181 services in managing and mitigating Covid-19 between March and July this year.

It continues to do that work but it is using the learnings from that period to  ensure any weaknesses can be combatted in the coming weeks.

The commission's study notes that the national testing system was "inconsistent and untimely", and that there was confusion among some services as to which health guidance they should be following.

It says there were significant inconsistencies around staff testing in mental health services and it says the use of dormitory-style accommodation was a factor in disease progression in the services worst-affected by the virus.

The commission has called for a more robust regulatory framework that will help protect service users and staff against winter flu, and any Covid-19 surges.

To do that it says the roll-out of a transparent, time-bound and rapid testing process for staff and residents is key.