Need a coronavirus test? Don’t call your GP, visit A&E or ring 111
- Credit: Archant
People needing coronavirus tests are being urged not to call their GP, 111, or their hospitals’ A&E after a surge in calls to the NHS.
Health bosses in Suffolk and north Essex say they have noticed a big increase in calls, with some GP practices reporting that one in five calls relate to coronavirus testing.
It comes amid a recent spike in demand for tests, with people unable to book slots or being sent hundreds of miles for them.
Those with Covid-19 symptoms are advised to book online or via the NHS 119 helpline.
Kevin Whomes, practice manager at Swan and Forest GP surgeries in west Suffolk, said: “This big increase in call volume is placing an extra burden on our already very busy staff, as well as making it more difficult for patients with primary care needs to contact us.
“It’s quite right that anyone with coronavirus symptoms gets tested, and it’s clear people are making an effort to arrange a test.
“But I urge them not to contact their practice if they have an inquiry about testing or are having difficulty in organising a test, as we have no access to the test system.”
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The region’s A&E departments said they had not experienced an increase in calls to them as people desperately try to book tests, however, they urged people not to visit hospital for this reason.
“Please do not come to the hospital, as we do not offer public testing and you risk spreading the virus,” said a spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital.
Over the border, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said it had noticed an increase in people arriving at A&E asking for a test and issued similar advice.
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In Bolton, where there is an outbreak, more than 100 people turned up at the hospital’s A&E trying to get a test.
Belinda White, of Care UK which operates the 111 service in our region, said: “As always the 111 service is here 24/7 for all urgent medical help and advice. What we cannot do is book Covid-19 tests.
“We understand it must be so frustrating for patients who have to sit in a call waiting line to have their query answered only to be told that they have come through to the wrong service so please dial 119 for test help.
She added: “By dialling 119 for tests you are helping us to ensure we can support those with medical issues promptly at this time of increased pressure.”