People with symptoms turned away, key workers isolating unnecessarily – York leaders call for action on Covid testing crisis

Healthcare assistant Corinne Parkes (right) has a Covid-19 swab test in Northamptonshire. Photograph: Joe Giddens / PA WIre
18 Sep 2020 @ 12.20 pm
| News

City leaders have called on the government for action as residents find it increasingly difficult to access coronavirus tests.

City of York Council leader Cllr Keith Aspden, along with leaders of other Yorkshire authorities, has written to health secretary Matt Hancock outlining the problems so many are now facing.

“People with symptoms are being turned away if they do not have an appointment and when they return home to book an appointment the national portal is not sending the confirmation they need to show testing sites that they have booked an appointment,” the letter states.

“There is plenty of soft intelligence suggesting people with symptoms who are unable to get a test just give up.

“We also have soft intelligence that NHS and Social Care staff who can’t get a test have no choice but to self-isolate, this creates service continuity and staffing issues which will be more and more problematic as we get further towards winter.

“In addition we are very keen to keep children at school and require timely testing for staff and pupils to allow this to happen. Many teachers, children and families are being forced to stay at home unnecessarily.”

System lacks capacity

The coronavirus testing station at Poppleton, York. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

In the letter, council leaders offered several ways they could help:

  • by exploring the possibility of utilising NHS capacity in Pillar 1 or university labs
  • supporting clear and proactive public communications on when people should get tested
  • supporting the distribution of testing kits to schools, colleges and universities in in all local authorities, not just those on the watch list.

Cllr Aspden said: “Thanks to the hard work of local public health teams, as well as the collective effort of residents and businesses, the public risk in York remains low.

“However, it is clear that the testing system is lacking adequate laboratory capacity. We need a fit for purpose test and trace that doesn’t require 100-mile journeys or weeks of waiting to receive results.

“Local authorities across our region need to have a clear narrative on the overall testing strategy. We are willing and able to support solutions that address the current acute capacity issues and find sustainable longer term answers.”

Students coming back

Meanwhile, Rachael Maskell has spoken to the universities minister Michelle Donelan about lack of testing.

With students returning to York and York St John Universities, the MP for York Central raised her concerns that hoped-for local testing facilities could take two months to be in place.

She called for a mobile testing facility to be brought to York, until a more permanent walk-in centre was in place.

“The seriousness by which our colleges and universities have taken biosecurity measures demonstrates that they will leave nothing to chance, and recognise that this is a difficult time for residents and students,” the Labour MP said.

“The key to a safe start to the term is the ability to test and contact trace. I have been working with public health professionals to make this case and have placed fresh ideas before the Minister today.

“The minister, in response, said that should there be an outbreak of infection then the Local Resilience Forum will be able to deploy a mobile testing facility.

“However this is too little too late.

“I will be relentless in making the case at every opportunity for York residents and incoming students to be able to access testing.”