A testing time

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Last week, having been asked about the local test and trace system, we published the advice given to us at that time for those with symptoms or concerns about contacts with individuals. We now know that nationwide there are systemic problems with the test and trace process with widespread reports of individuals failing to secure tests either in centres or at home.

The health secretary has said that the UK is facing an “enormous challenge” with testing as the coronavirus “epidemic is growing” again. He has said that “tests are having to be prioritised, with the top priority allocated to acute clinical care and the next to social care”. He undertook to set out a full prioritisation list to make sure all tests are used according to the set priorities. The problem lies in laboratory capacity to handle the tests. The backdrop for this was around 2,600 new daily cases and the “R rate” climbing above 1.

Locally, Sussex Resilience Forum (SRF) has ascertained from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that whilst there are some difficulties in securing a booking in Sussex the issue is laboratory capacity which is creating a pressure in the system. The SRF has underscored that with a national prioritisation of testing where demand is greatest and where there are lockdowns or areas on the “watch list”, resources in lower risk areas such as the south east are being suspended until backlogs are cleared. DHSC haS said that more laboratories are being brought on line and it is anticipated that the situation will improve in the coming weeks. DHSC is working nationally to change the messaging to ensure only those with symptoms are accessing tests and the SRF will be assisting with that message reaching into our communities.

We have consulted our MP, Sally-Ann Hart and were advised that she is well aware of the issues. Her office said that: “Sally-Ann completely understands people’s frustration and concern about the difficulties of securing tests. She has been in touch with the local NHS commissioning group (who organise and run the testing units and labs in the UK) and learnt that the sudden upsurge in demand for tests has occurred at a time when lots of people are just returning to work for the first time and, of course, schools and universities are re-opening. She has been told that everything that is possible is being done to improve the situation. In the event that local people are unable to obtain a local test, it is not recommended that they travel long distances, particularly if symptomatic. Government advice is to try to book again in a few hours. A good time to try is 8:30pm when new slots are made available.”

Sally-Ann Hart says: “We need to get the message out strongly that people must only apply for a test if they have symptoms otherwise they will prevent those with symptoms being tested in good time”.

We will be keeping a close eye on the situation and will publish updates as there is more local news on testing.

Image Credits: UK Government .

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