United Kingdom warned virus test shortages harming health system

Henrietta Strickland
September 15, 2020

"Trust leaders from Bristol, Leeds and London have all raised concerns over the weekend about the lack of testing availability leading to greater levels of staff absence".

"Chief executives in Leeds, Bristol and London... were saying that [they] have got staff off that they simply can not afford to have off", Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers - an organization of NHS trusts representing hospital staff, told Sky News.

Officials predict that the current capacity will fail to meet demand over the next few weeks, at least until a laboratory capable of processing 50,000 tests per day opens in the Midlands, which is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative chair of the House of Commons health committee and a former health secretary, also described testing delays as a "big concern" especially if hospitals can't get tests for staff.

"The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark - they don't know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests".

"Trust leaders are frustrated that, throughout the pandemic, the government has always seemed more concerned with managing the political implications of operational problems rather than being open and honest about them - shortages of PPE and testing reagents earlier in the pandemic being good examples".

According to the latest government statistics, more than 225,000 tests on average were carried out daily, while capacity was at almost 375,000 tests per day on September 10.

"Our recent survey showed how concerned trust leaders were about the impact of inadequate testing on their ability to restore services and it's disappointing that no detailed information on the current problems has been shared".

NHS Providers has warned that the continued shortage of tests could send hospitals into chaos since NHS admissions of people with cancer, heart attacks and other deadly diseases already fell significantly in the first half of the year since priority was given to Covid-19 treatment.

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Professor Alan McNally, director of the institute of microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham, told the BBC there were clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about, together with increased need for testing.

Hospital trust bosses are saying that key workers are having to self-isolate because Covid-19 tests are unavailable for either them or their family, taking valuable staff away from the frontline.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said testing capacity has been targeted at the hardest-hit areas following a rise in demand.

After updating the site for five hours, she was able to get an appointment but upon arrival she was told that no reservations had been made.

"I must say I burst into tears. I was supposed to see patients and feel guilty". He said, "I'm told, there's nothing we can do, at first".

Mr Hopson said NHS Providers believed demand for testing has "risen exponentially" since schools returned this month.

Meanwhile, the president of the British Medical Association said the government should focus on the existing testing regime - rather than the "Moonshot Process" plan that aims to see millions of tests being processed every day using a new type of test that has yet to be rolled out.

Mr. Johnson He previously said The comprehensive testing program could be ready by spring and could help the United Kingdom avoid a second national lockdown. The worrisome prediction comes despite Whitehall recently announcing a new lab in Leicestershire, which will process around 50,000 antigen tests per day within the next few weeks, and opening a new lab at Newport.

Hancock insisted that capacity for testing was "at a record high" and 9,278 tests were carried out on Monday in the 10 areas of the country worst-hit by a surge in cases.

An NHS spokeswoman said: "Hospitals continue to fully comply with recommended patient and staff testing protocols".

"To further support the national testing and traceability program, NHS Hospital Laboratories are now asked to further expand their capacity for successful, fast and highly accurate testing".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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