Health officials ‘aware’ of issues with booking Covid-19 tests, despite government improvements

Instead of being sent to the Covid-19 drive-through testing centre near the Copdock interchange in I

Instead of being sent to the Covid-19 drive-through testing centre near the Copdock interchange in Ipswich, many people have been told their nearest centre is hundreds of miles away. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Suffolk health bosses have said they are “aware” of the difficulties that people are facing while booking Covid-19 tests, with some being told to travel to centres more than 100 miles away.

Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS - Credit: Archant

Flaws in the Government’s coronavirus test booking system have been highlighted over the past weeks with people from across Suffolk reportedly being sent to testing centres across the country.

Residents have allegedly been told to travel from Ipswich to Nottingham and one family from Battisford, near Needham Market, was even told Ebbw Vale in South Wales, which is 179.6 miles away, was their closest testing centre.

The Government has now confirmed it is working to “improve” the system and director for Public Health at Suffolk County Council, Stuart Keeble, has said he is aware of the issues in Suffolk.

He said: “Unfortunately access to testing is an issue right across the country at the moment.

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“We are aware that some people are having difficulty getting a test in Suffolk.

“They may be told that their nearest testing centre is many miles away, or they cannot secure a home test kit.

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“Due to the current increased national demand for testing, the Government advises that you should only book a test if you have Covid-19 symptoms.

“You must book your test within five days of your symptoms starting.”

Despite the government’s efforts to improve the service, people looking to take a Covid-19 test could still be sent up to 75 miles away.

The Department of Health says the planned changes will improve the way tests are booked, but it could still see Suffolk residents travelling as far as Milton Keynes or Peterborough to take a test.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working, our capacity is the highest it has ever been and our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week.

“We are seeing a significant demand for tests but if you have symptoms we urge you to get tested.

“New booking slots and homes testing kits are made available daily and you can help protect yourself if you wash your hands, cover your face and make space.

“We are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups and we recently announced new laboratory facilities and new technology to process results even faster.”

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, has also said that people who are taking tests, but do not need to, is reducing the capacity for those who genuinely need one.

The West Suffolk MP said that people without symptoms, who have not been asked to get a test by a GP or local authority, should not be getting tested.

He said: “There are currently a record number of tests available. Our capacity is higher than it ever has been.

“However, we have seen a rise in the number of people who are not eligible for tests coming forward and getting those tests.

“If you don’t have symptoms, unless you have been asked specifically by a clinician or local authority to go and get a test, you are not eligible for a test.

“We want the test to be available for people with symptoms.”

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