I have been inundated from people extremely anxious because they have not been able to get a test either here at the local testing centre in Chesterfield or anywhere else nearby. As children have gone back to school and many people have returned to their normal work environment away from home, it is not surprising that people are contracting illnesses and are getting symptoms that are associated with coronavirus. They want, and are being told, to get tested and in many cases told they need a negative result before they can return to school or work.
I have now had a long conversation with the local head of the testing programme for Derbyshire to discover what the situation is.
Locally we have greater capacity for testing than there is laboratory capacity for. The national labs that the government set up can’t cope with the number of tests and the Health Secretary says that we should expect more laboratory capacity online in the next 2 to 4 weeks. The national labs are prioritising areas with higher incidence of COVID over areas like Derbyshire which further restricts the number of tests we are able to get. That is why people will sometimes find they can’t get a local test but drive past the Proact and find there is no-one being tested there.
I have asked Matt Hancock directly in the House of Commons and by letter, what the Government’s plans were for testing as demand increases . It is clear from his response that he knows that areas are being prioritised ahead of Derbyshire. I will be writing to him again to demand that when the laboratory capacity increases in the coming weeks, we get to increase the capacity locally so that we are allocated as many tests as the local centres can provide.
I had to fight to get a local testing centre in the first place and now I have to fight again to ensure we get our fair share of laboratory spots, this is so far away from the ‘world-class’ system we were promised.
I have also spoken to health bosses who are now struggling to get their staff tested and having people away from work who could return if only they had their result.
It is imperative that people who don’t have symptoms and haven’t been told to get a test do not get one until the government have managed to get the capacity up to the level that can cope.
It is not good enough that the systems weren’t put in place before now to meet the inevitable demand. We are going to see more and more people falling ill over the next few weeks and months, as is usually the case at this time of year and it is important that people are able to find out if they have coronavirus or not.
I appreciate the demand is unprecedented and that new testing centres are being set up and staff are working flat out to turn the results around. However, this demand is not unexpected and we have been calling for the Government to get control of this for months.