UK COVID-19 Update: 3 in 4 doctors 'can't access testing'

  • Tim Locke, Medscape.com

  • UK Medical News
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These are the latest UK coronavirus stories you need to know.

3 in 4 Doctors 'Can't Access Testing'

A member poll of more than 750 doctors by Doctors' Association UK (DAUK) found 77% who needed a test couldn't get one. This resulted in doctors being away from work until they could arrange a test.

The problem, reported by the public, of being unable to find a test site nearby also affected doctors. A Gloucester GP had to self-isolate for 6 days before a slot was available nearly 200 miles away in Norwich.

Another doctor spoke of the only option being "an appointment in 90 minutes. It is a 419-mile journey to get there and takes 7 hours according to Google maps."

Another doctor found a hospital that could do a test but "due to resources being stretched can only test one child so I just had to pick the child which was worse."

DAUK President Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden commented: "It is a disgrace that NHS staff and patients are being forced to drive hundreds of miles to access a test whilst unwell if one is available to them at all. For frontline NHS staff preparing for a second wave, this feels like Groundhog Day. The same problems we were having accessing testing in March appear to be repeating themselves. It seems that we are heading into a second peak having not learned lessons from the first. 

"We are already very short-staffed within the NHS. We can’t afford for a single doctor to be self-isolating due to being unable to access a test. We are now calling on the Government to ensure that vulnerable patients and frontline NHS staff are prioritised for testing going forward."

Next Steps

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Professor Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "It seems that there are several bottlenecks in the testing procedures...This needs to be addressed urgently and if it is capacity then university labs should be more widely employed."

The DAUK poll results come as ministers are considering rationing testing by prioritising NHS and social care.

At Prime Minister's Questions, Boris Johnson blamed problems on a  "colossal spike" in demand for tests but insisted the Government had "delivered on the most thorough testing regime anywhere in Europe".

The Royal Bolton Hospital's Medical Director Dr Francis Andrews took to social media to urge patients not to turn up at A&E to try to get a test.

"A&E is currently very busy, managing a high volume of patients who have arrived requesting a COVID19 test. Patients are requested not to turn up to the hospital," the hospital tweeted.

ITV's Robert Peston reported that the Government is to give the 'rule of six' measures 2 weeks to see if they make a difference to rising cases before introducing extra measures in England. However, closing schools is thought to be a last resort.

An unnamed leading scientific adviser is quoted: "Lockdown is the only thing that we know works, to be frank."

On Tuesday, the BMA's Annual Representative Meeting voted for a change in COVID-19 strategy similar to New Zealand's  "near elimination" approach.

Hospital-acquired COVID-19

The Guardian reported that an inquiry has begun into a fatal outbreak of hospital-acquired COVID-19 at Tameside General Hospital in Greater Manchester.

Coronavirus fatalities increased to 18 in the week to 10 September from six the week before.

Staff Flu Jabs

Frontline staff are being urged to have flu jabs this year in an open letter from NHS England.

It said a 10% increase in NHS staff vaccination reduces healthcare worker sickness absence by about 10%.

Last year's uptake was a record 74.3%.

Latest Local Lockdown

The latest local lockdown was announced by the Welsh Government. From 6 pm Thursday, people will not be allowed to enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council area without a reasonable excuse. Other restrictions include pubs closing at 11 pm.

The rolling 7-day new case rate is 82.1 per 100,000 people in that area and it has the highest rate of positive tests in Wales at 4.3%.

Innovative ENT Mask Device

The NHS is getting free access to an innovative mask device developed by ENT surgeons Ajith George from Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, and Chris Coulson from Royal Stoke University Hospital, the BBC reported.

The circular SNAP device, made by the company endoscope-i, allows patients to wear a face mask during endoscopy.

"Our aim has been to produce an easy-to-use, cheap device that would allow clinicians to return to routine practice," Mr Coulson said.

Adapted from Medscape UK.