The BMA has called on the government to “get a grip on testing at this critical time in COVID-19 fight” following reports of laboratory testing capacity issues.
Responding to the admission from Sarah-Jane Marsh, 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 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."
He pointed out that the number of new COVID-19 cases has “risen exponentially” in recent 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.”
Dr Nagpaul said the government must provide “an urgent update on how it plans to address this failure that seriously threatens England’s ability” to manage the pandemic.