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200916 | Cornwall and Devon GPs criticise 'inadequate' testing capacity as locals are offered tests in Aberdeen and Cardiff

Cornwall and Devon GPs criticise 'inadequate' testing capacity as locals are offered tests in Aberdeen and Cardiff

Dr Bruce Hughes and Dr Will Hynds said some people living in Cornwall and Devon have been offered tests at centres as far away as Cardiff and Aberdeen

16 September 2020 0 comments

By Olivier Vergnault

GP representatives in Devon and Cornwall have expressed concerns that Covid-19 testing facilities (Image: Getty Images)

GPs in Devon and Cornwall have said Covid-19 testing capacity is "unacceptable" and "inadequate" after residents were told the nearest appointments were in Aberdeen and Cardiff.

Dr Bruce Hughes and Dr Will Hynds, chairs of Devon Local Medical Committee and Kernow Local Medical Committee, said they have "serious concerns" about the Covid-19 testing capacity across the two counties.

In a joint statement released on September 15, Dr Hughes and Dr Hynds said that for several weeks members of the public and healthcare professionals with Covid-19 symptoms have been unable to get tested at a local centre.

They said that instead, people have either been offered appointments at centres in cities such as Cardiff or Aberdeen, or have struggled to access the service at all.

The LMCs are now urging the Department of Health and Social Care to increase testing capacity in the two counties.


Their statement reads: “It has come to our attention that for several weeks there have been either few testing slots available a long way from sick patients – for example, Aberdeen or Cardiff – or next to no tests available at all.

"This situation is unacceptable for patients and healthcare workers for several reasons.

"Patients are unlikely to travel long distances when they are ill and this means that many will go untested. Their Covid-19 status will be unknown and the track and trace system will not be activated. This may allow further and unregulated spread of the virus for positive cases.

“When a healthcare worker or a household member develops symptoms the healthcare worker is unable to attend work to perform their vital duties until a negative test has been received."

It continued: “Most worryingly the true rate of infection in our area will be hugely underestimated. GPs are increasingly experiencing patients with covid-like symptoms, with a sharp rise in suspected cases.

"Due to this under-reporting, patients who are severely vulnerable, such as those that received shielding letters, may be denied the chance to make an informed decision to avoid potential exposure. This could result in serious illness or even death.”

Dr Hughes and Dr Hynds said Devon and Kernow LMCs have a duty of care to make sure the local population is aware of the situation and have urged the Department of Health and Social Care to increase testing capacity in the two counties.

They are the only independent statutory representatives of GPs in the two counties.

 

Dr Hughes and Dr Hynds added: “We recognise and appreciate the efforts of the local health system to deliver Covid-19 testing, despite being severely hindered by national issues outside its control.

"The local laboratory teams and their swabbing partners continue to offer Covid-19 testing to health and care workers with the limited spare capacity available.

"The Peninsula Pathology NHS Network is actively working with local Public Health teams to set up local testing on a prioritised basis to ensure that swabbing and testing is available as soon as possible."

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 but we are seeing a significant demand for tests.

"New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for people with symptoms and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.

“Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster.

"If you do not have symptoms and are not eligible to get a test you can continue to protect yourself if you wash your hands, wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.”