Government must get a grip on testing at this critical time in Covid-19 fight, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Tuesday 8 September 2020
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Responding to the admission from Sarah-Jane Marsh, the director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, that people are unable to access Covid-19 tests because of labs reaching capacity, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“The admission from Test and Trace’s own director of testing that lab capacity is at ‘critical pinch point’ underlines the urgent need for the Government to get a grip on the testing system that is clearly not delivering.

“In recent days we’ve heard concerning reports from doctors that they or their patients are unable to access tests and follow-up results at what is a critical time in the fight against Covid-19. These doctors are themselves frustrated but equally concerned for patients who are contacting them unsure of what to do.

“We’ve seen numbers of cases rise exponentially in the last two days, with warnings for the public not to be complacent – yet such a failure in testing strategy completely undermines any attempt to bring the infection rate down.

“An effective test and trace system is crucial in managing our response and reducing case numbers, and if people cannot get tested then there is no way of identifying local outbreaks and minimising community spread. We also know that the workload of public health staff is becoming increasingly unmanageable – and these professionals are vital in tracing contacts once someone tests positive.

“Meanwhile, we’re told there is capacity at local test sites, begging the question why people have recently been sent long distances from home to get tested. If this is a strategy to reduce demand to meet overall lab capacity, it is completely unacceptable and disproportionately impacts people from lower income backgrounds who can ill afford to travel such distances.

“The Government must provide an urgent update on how it plans to address this failure that seriously threatens England’s ability to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

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