NHS Test and Trace official issues apology to people unable to get tests

8 September 2020, 11:20 | Updated: 8 September 2020, 11:22

There are reports of people being told to travel hundreds of miles for a covid test
There are reports of people being told to travel hundreds of miles for a covid test. Picture: PA

The Director of Testing at NHS Test and Trace has offered her “heartfelt apologies” to people who cannot get a coronavirus test, after shortages meant some people were forced to travel hundreds of miles to get tested.

LBC understands that there were no Covid-19 tests available in much of London on Monday, with a message telling those with symptoms to check again a few hours later.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, who is in charge of the testing across England, apologised in a tweet today.

“Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a COVID test at present,” she tweeted.

Ms Marsh explained that, while testing sites have capacity and therefore don’t look overcrowded, it is “laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point”.

On Sunday there was capacity for 370,000 tests but only 176,000 were processed.

To address this additional labs are “due to open-up imminently” and the use of “non-Laboratory based tests” is being expanded, she added.

Read more: Brits told to maintain Covid-19 safety rules after rise in cases

The lack of tests has created shortages in parts of the country and some of those who have been able to book a test were told to travel hundreds of miles to testing sites.

On Friday, Nick from Nottingham told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that he was instructed by the government’s testing website that he should travel 341 miles from Nottingham to Dundee to take a coronavirus test.

Nick came back on air to confront Health Secretary Matt Hancock as part of LBC’s Call the Cabinet on Monday.

"I'm not happy with the testing system at all, we were promised a world-class track and trace system," Nick said to the Health Secretary, telling him of his experience.

Mr Hancock responded: "We've changed that now and people get offered tests within 75 miles which is still quite a hike if you need to.”

"The vast majority of people get access to a test at their local testing centre," he responded, accepting that there had "been problems" with the system but he has since announced half a billion pounds for extra capacity.

Ms Marsh said the testing team “recognise the country is depending on us” and are working on increasing availability “18 hours a day, 7 days a week”.

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