NHS staff absent due to coronavirus testing shortage

An NHS employee holds a sample at a testing centre near the Crown and Anchor pub following a spike in cases of the coronavirus disease to visitors of the pub in Stone Britain

"There are operational challenges and we're working hard to fix them", Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament.

He also insisted the average distance travelled to a test site is now 5.8 miles, adding it is "inevitable" demand rises when a "free service" is available.

Mr Hancock said prioritisation was "a choice that we must make".

"As we expand capacity further, we're working around the clock to make sure everyone who needs a test can get a test".

Coronavirus tests in England will be rationed as the Government struggles to get to grips with soaring demand amid warnings that the country faces a tough six months in the battle with Covid-19.

The Health Secretary acknowledged that there were "operational challenges" in the testing system as he was summoned to answer an urgent question on the situation in the Commons.

Moz Bulbeck Reynolds, who lives west of London, said she had been unable to schedule a test through the government website since Monday morning. More testing slots and home testing kits have been made available as demand rises, she said.

"We're aware of a small number of examples of patients being unable to get such tests, which cuts across trusts' ability to restore services in the way they have been asked to do", he said.

"The top priority is and always has been acute clinical care".

He said: "We've seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible."And throughout this pandemic we have prioritised testing according to need".

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"I think that we will be able to solve this problem in a matter of weeks", Mr Hancock replied.

Opposition leader Sir Kier Starmer, who is now isolating after a family member displayed coronavirus symptoms, said the Government's handling of testing was "incompetent" and that it had failed to prepare over the summer for a rise in demand.

NHS Providers has warned that the continued shortage of tests could send hospitals into chaos since NHS admissions of people with cancer, heart attacks and other deadly diseases already fell significantly in the first half of the year since priority was given to Covid-19 treatment.

The testing crisis was revealed in a recent investigation by the LBS Radio, which reported that literally no test bookings were available in any of the UK's 10 Covid-19 hotspots, including Bolton, Salford, Bradford and Manchester. But the estimated cost for the program almost matches the NHS budget, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said in the text of a speech to be delivered Tuesday to the annual meeting of the doctor's union.

"However, a number of them have also been advised that if they put an Aberdeen postcode into the system, they can get a test in Twickenham and they have succeeded", Ms Wilson said.

She added: "Our members, and especially in general practice, are concerned that their staff are having to self-isolate unnecessarily due to delays and difficulties in access to tests for themselves and their families - and that some are having to wait longer than expected for the results - which is putting a strain on the services they can provide".

A doctor working in the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak said that she and her partner had tested positive for a cough and fever.

Lord Bethell of Romford, the testing minister, told peers yesterday that "we are throwing everything we can at the test and trace system", acknowledging though that demand had been too high.

Professor Alan McNally, director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham, who helped set up the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, told BBC Breakfast there were "clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about", plus a surge in demand for tests.

While the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 was relatively low, the source said "the direction of travel is only going to go one way, in my view between now and the winter, which is up".

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