United Kingdom says working hard to fix problems with COVID testing

Henrietta Strickland
September 16, 2020

The testing crisis was revealed in a recent investigation by the LBS Radio, which reported that literally no test bookings were available in any of the UK's 10 Covid-19 hotspots, including Bolton, Salford, Bradford and Manchester.

It emerged at the weekend that the government's Lighthouse laboratories were attempting to clear a backlog of 185,000 tests, with some being sent to Germany and Italy to be processed.

"B" / 'I don't deny that it is an enormous challenge and when you have a free service, it's inevitable that demand rises, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament.

Sands said he had tried more than 50 times to log on to the government's website to book a test, but each time it either said there are none available or the system crashes.

NHS Providers, which represents hospital funds in England, said employees are forced to self-isolate rather than work because they can not do tests for themselves or their family members. "He needs to fix testing now".

"Throughout this pandemic, we have prioritised testing according to need".

"There are clearly capacity issues present with the test system", said Chris Hobson, chief executive of NHS Providers.

"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".

Referring to general NHS activity, he added: "We have now got cases where patients who should be being treated, we can't treat them because they can't get access to a test".

"They need to know all this information so that they can plan accordingly".

He said hospital bosses were "working in the dark" as they did not know why there were shortages, how long they were likely to last, how geographically widespread they are nor what priority would be given to healthcare workers. We are concerned, for example, that patients waiting for hospital treatment can no longer highlight this fact when applying online to access a test.

"There is a significant impact and a growing impact on the NHS, and that is a problem", he added.

He urged the Government "to be honest and open" about what was going on.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged to have a "world-beating" testing and tracing operation in place by June. Both approaches ignore the operational problem at hand.

"The trust leaders that we have talked to told us: 'Could we, please, have a little less of the political communication pretending that all is well and a little bit honesty about what is going on, so that we can actually deal with this?'" he revealed. As a result, the demand for testing has risen, and the government was prioritizing who could get tested first.

Britain advises those showing symptoms should get a test though it says the system has been burdened by people with no symptoms asking for tests, while some schools have demanded any ill students get a test or stay away for 14 days. "If we don't, the worry is we'll never gain control as we head into autumn and winter".

Just as demand for testing is increasing, the ability to process tests is decreasing, Mr Ashworth said.

The testing situation was discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

NHS leaders have called for health workers and patients to be given priority after Government sources admitted that demand for tests is now far outstripping supply.

However, the health secretary admitted there were "operational challenges" with the testing system which he said the government was working to fix.

Hancock said an updated prioritisation list would be published setting out who will be at the front of the queue for tests.

Experts had called for tests to be rationed, and complained that capacity had not expanded to meet the expected rise in demand as schools reopened and people returned to workplaces - as the Government has urged in England. And when will NHS staff access regular testing so they can focus on their patients not be sat at home? "To further support the national Test and Trace programme, NHS hospital labs have now been asked to further expand their successful, fast turnaround and highly accurate, testing capacity".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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