Published: Wed, September 16, 2020
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Virus test shortages harming health system, say United Kingdom hospitals

Virus test shortages harming health system, say United Kingdom hospitals

However, the health secretary admitted there were "operational challenges" with the testing system which he said the government was working to fix.

On Tuesday evening Bolton NHS Foundation Trust said a "high volume of patients" had turned up at accident and emergency asking for a coronavirus test.

An NHS spokeswoman said: "Hospitals continue to fully comply with recommended patient and staff testing protocols".

Bolton has the highest infection rate in England.

"Over the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all requirements for testing whether priorities or not".

Hancock said he wouldn't rule out further steps to make sure tests are used according to those priorities.

"The next priority is social care, where we're now sending over 100,000 tests a day, because we've all seen the risks this virus poses in care homes", Hancock said.

"As demand has risen, we are having to prioritise once again".

"Trust leaders are frustrated that, throughout the pandemic, the government has always seemed more concerned with managing the political implications of operational problems rather than being open and honest about them - shortages of PPE and testing reagents earlier in the pandemic being good examples".

Acute clinical care is the top priority, with social care next on the list and now receiving more than 100,000 tests a day.

"But instead it has been one of access to sufficient "Lighthouse" laboratory processing and it is this that has led to a backlog in the system and longer turnaround times for tests than we we want to be the case".

Mr Hancock acknowledged that it might be "a matter of weeks" before the problems are resolved.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth claimed Mr Hancock was "losing control of this virus".

"We have now got cases where patients who should be being treated, we can't treat them because they can't get access to a test", he told Sky News television in an interview.


Liberal Democrat Munira Wilson said she has been "inundated" with emails from doctors, teachers and parents unable to access tests in Twickenham.

The Department of Health said there were tests available and urged people to keep trying.

Downing Street was forced to deny reports that tests are not available in the worst-hit parts of England.

Hancock said Britain's testing capacity is being expanded, and now has the capacity to process about 243,000 coronavirus tests a day, up from 220,000 at the end of August.

The testing situation was discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Hancock said the Government was working around the clock to fix the issues and that some people seeking tests were not eligible to receive them.

Sir John told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today".

NHS Providers, which represents the heads of hospital trusts in the state-run National Health Service, said there are "current capacity problems with the testing regime".

He said the NHS "simply can't spare members of staff waiting for tests not being able to come into work" and patients unable to be tested.

Leading figures in Whitehall are braced for a hard winter with the possibility of further increases in Covid-19 cases among the more vulnerable elderly population.

The NHS has blamed the crisis on staff shortages in the laboratories that now have to deal with a surging number of tests as the number of new Covid-19 cases has risen exponentially.

In today's other developments, more than three thousand people have tested positive for Covid-19, 27 people have died in the last 24 hours, and the total number of deaths is now 41, 664.

Separate figures published by the UK's statistics agencies show there have now been 57,500 deaths registered in the United Kingdom where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate. This brings the United Kingdom total to 41,664.

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