NHS workers could be ‘undermined’ if Covid-19 testing issues are not resolved, warns MP

Dr Dan Poulter MP, who is also a doctor, said NHS workers could be undermined if Covid-19 testing is

Dr Dan Poulter MP, who is also a doctor, said NHS workers could be undermined if Covid-19 testing is not improved Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk MP Dr Dan Poulter has warned NHS staff could be “undermined” if issues with the government’s testing system are not resolved within three weeks.

Andy Yacoub, CEO of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Andy Yacoub, CEO of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich also said summer should have been used better to plan the testing programme.

He warned problems with the system, which has seen requests for tests double in the past three weeks, could mean Suffolk could see a second wave of Covid-19 this winter.

Dr Poulter said despite tests being hard to come by, and although key workers are being prioritised, those with symptoms should still try to get themselves tested.

He said: “The only way we are going to be able to contain a second wave is to be through effective testing and also making sure there is an effective contact tracing mechanism in place.

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“In my view we haven’t got a lot of time to get capacity to where it needs to be.

“What I’m a little bit disappointed about is that we knew there was going to be a challenge this winter.

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“Yet the time that we had over the summer to build up testing capacity hasn’t been used as wisely as it should have been.

“We now have a two or three week window to put in place the necessary capacity to ensure we have adequate testing during the winter months.”

Dr Poulter praised NHS workers in Suffolk for their work to prepare for the winter.

But he said their efforts could be “undermined” if the testing debacle is not fixed.

“I’m very impressed that everything that is being done at Ipswich hospital and by social care providers in terms of preparing for a difficult winter,” he said.

“But they will be undermined if you haven’t got a rapid and effective testing system available for the staff who would much rather be treating patients rather than being forced to self isolate.”

The government has received wide spread criticism of its testing system, which has seen people from Suffolk invited to travel hundreds of miles to receive a test.

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “Local health and care leaders would understandably like to prioritise health, care and other key workers, such as teachers, to be tested ahead of others.

“Clearly this also means that others with symptoms of Covid are getting a raw deal, and this has to be addressed nationally.

“The other problem people are facing is this increasing expectation of people to travel ridiculous distances in order to be tested.

“This is wholly unacceptable, whether or not this is simply a technical issue with the service.

“We are aware that this particular issue is also being faced by key workers.”

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