The testing fiasco is hampering the NHS 'ability to resume normal service, hospital directors warn today.
Doctors and nurses have to leave the front lines to self-isolate because they or family members cannot book a test. NHS providers say that if the shortage is not addressed soon, it will be devastating for hospitals as virus cases continue to escalate.
An investigation by the LBC radio station yesterday found that test bookings were not available at any of the country's ten coronavirus hotspots, including Bolton, Salford, Bradford and Manchester.
School principals have also warned that if teachers cannot be tested quickly, schools will stall.
An investigation by the LBC radio station yesterday found that test bookings were not available at any of the country's ten coronavirus hotspots, including Bolton, Salford, Bradford and Manchester
Health officials have attributed the problems to a "critical pinch point" in laboratories processing the tests due to a sudden surge in demand. This has resulted in patients being advised to travel 500 miles or more across England as no tests are available nearby.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon put pressure on the government, claiming the backlog has affected Scottish patients as well.
Test results will be processed in one of seven Lighthouse Labs across the country in areas such as Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, Loughborough in Leicestershire, Cambridge and Glasgow.
Miss Sturgeon is concerned that the backlog in England is affecting the Glasgow laboratory leading to delays in Scotland.
She said yesterday: "We have raised these concerns to the UK government."
A senior government source last night dismissed their claims as “false”, adding: “It is disappointing that the First Minister has decided to take policy on the pandemic.
Coronavirus tests are not currently available at the ten centers of the UK coronavirus outbreak, according to LBC. Pictured above is a testing center in Bolton, Northern England
“We've been working with the Scottish Government all weekend to make sure they got the testing support they need. The First Minister should put her own house in order before blaming others. "
However, with intervention today, NHS providers representing hospital trusts are warning that the backlog is affecting the health care system's ability to get back to normal.
CEO Chris Hopson said, "It is clear that there are capacity issues with the test regime.
“Trust leaders from Bristol, Leeds and London have all raised concerns about the lack of availability of testing, which has resulted in greater staff absenteeism.
“NHS trusts work in the dark – they don't know why these bottlenecks are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how widespread geographical they are likely to be, and the priority given to health workers and their families in accessing scarce testing. “School principals have warned schools will also be affected by staff who are unable to get tested quickly.
Those trying to run tests on the ten UK hotspots will be greeted with this message
A chief in Southampton told The Guardian that three self-isolating workers could not get a swab, adding, "We will grind to a halt unless the availability of tests improves quickly."
Another elementary school principal in Sussex said lack of testing will derail the reopening and ensure instability of both staff and students.
Labor MP Stella Creasy yesterday described the situation as an “absolute farce”. She told BBC Radio 4's World At One, "I had a lot of parents who contacted me this morning because they have kids with listed symptoms … who need a test that can't be booked online that "I've been trying to book one all weekend.
"Our walk-in center, which is on our doorstep yesterday, started turning people away when they didn't have an appointment. That would make sense if it was full, but I was down there myself and nothing happened there."
"They don't know how many tests to do, they don't know how many scientists they need, and they don't know what the demand is."
Last week Boris Johnson said he wanted to run millions of tests every day as part of a very ambitious strategy called Operation Moonshot. Scientists warned, however, that the plans were “fundamentally flawed” and even dangerous, as the tests can falsely tell people that they are either positive or negative.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon put pressure on the government, claiming the backlog has affected Scottish patients as well
Swabs are not available in Bolton, which is battling the largest outbreak of the virus in the country with an infection rate of 122 cases per 100,000 people.
The government website that books test spots also shows that there are no tests available in Salford, Bradford, Blackburn, Oldham, Preston, Pendle, Rochdale, Tameside and Manchester, according to LBC Radio.
When zip codes in each area are entered into the test system it supposedly displays the message: 'This service is very busy right now. More tests should be available later. & # 39;
The chairman of the council in Bolton, which has the highest infection rate in the UK, said the online booking system had "serious flaws" and that it was beyond the control of the council because it is run by the government. He said the problem was "unacceptable".
Matt Hancock and his officials have repeatedly spoken of increasing testing capacity, boasting that the UK is now doing more swab tests than many of its neighbors.
But the system inexplicably seems to crack under the pressure of doing the roughly 200,000 swabs a day – even before & # 39; Moonshot & # 39; started at all.
NHS Test & Trace's chief testing officer publicly apologized on Twitter last week, saying lab capacity was due to slow turnaround times and people's inability to order swabs.
Almost 500,000 patients have waited at least six weeks for key tests
Almost half a million patients have waited six weeks or more for critical diagnostic tests to detect cancer, heart attacks, and other serious illnesses.
The numbers have increased tenfold in just one year as hospitals struggle with a backlog after Covid.
Charities fear the long waits will have a devastating impact on NHS patients, especially those with cancer, which may become untreatable.
Separate data shows that the number of patients undergoing cancer treatment is down by a quarter compared to the same period last year. The total fell by 6,647 to 21,599.
Yesterday, the mail revealed that hospital admissions had dropped on seven serious illnesses.
There is a growing backlog of patients who were unable to receive treatment at the height of the pandemic and are now at risk for serious complications.
This number continues to rise as hospitals can only treat a limited number of patients due to social distancing and infection control measures.
The latest NHS data shows that 489,647 patients waited more than six weeks for one of 15 major diagnostic tests in July, the most recent month for which numbers are available.
A shocking 291,982 of them had waited at least 13 weeks.
By comparison, in July 2019, only 40,099 had waited six weeks or more and 5,675 had waited at least 13 weeks.
Michelle Mitchell of Cancer Research UK said, “Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on cancer care and the lives of cancer patients. Much work remains to be done to ensure cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment are not even more affected by future waves of Covid-19. "
Alex Norris, a Labor Health spokesman, said, “Patients waiting for these tests cannot afford government to be as slow as other areas. Some of these tests are used to diagnose cancer. For these patients, we know that early diagnosis leads to better treatment and better survival. "
An NHS spokesman said: "Hospitals have worked around the clock throughout the pandemic so patients can continue to receive critical tests and treatments while they are safe between March and July."
The backlog also affects routine surgeries like hip and knee surgeries. Last week's NHS numbers showed that 2.1 million patients had waited at least 18 weeks.
It's not clear why labs are struggling to process the tests, which are the same as they were during the pandemic. On September 10, 227,465 tests were processed while the Ministry of Health claimed it had the capacity to handle 364,917 in a day.
LBC's Westminster correspondent Ben Kentish said they were not offered any when they tried to have tests in any of the ten areas.
"The government testing website simply says the service is very busy and people should be back in a couple of hours," he said.
& # 39; We tried to get a test in the top ten areas. In all ten areas, they were unable to test in any of the ten areas. & # 39;
Coronavirus test appointments are uploaded to the government testing portal throughout the day. So if you want to book a test, be sure to check back regularly.
Once each test is booked, the website will show that none are currently available in the region.
All ten areas where tests are not currently available are listed by Public Health England as the areas of England with the largest coronavirus outbreaks.
In their latest report, Bolton topped the list, followed by Bradford with 72 cases per 100,000, Oldham with 66 cases per 100,000, and Salford with 62 cases per 100,000.
The lack of testing came to the fore last week when people announced that they had either been sent dozens of miles from home to get a test while others couldn't get one at all.
Online booking systems were unable to handle requests for tests, which meant people who believed they had the coronavirus had to do without it.
In response, NHS Test & Trace test director Sarah-Jane Marsh apologized heartily last week.
Ms. Marsh said there was capacity at the test sites, but the laboratories where the tests were being conducted were at a "critical point".
She added that the system is "doing everything it can to expand rapidly".
It has been reported that people have been told that there are no appointments available at testing centers in England and that no home test kits are available to ship.
Ms. Marsh wrote on Twitter: “Can I please apologize to everyone who is currently unable to receive a Covid test?
& # 39; All of our test sites are busy so they don't look crowded. It is our laboratory processing that is the critical point. We do everything to expand quickly.
& # 39; We have additional NHS, Lighthouse, University and partner laboratories all of which are due to open soon, and we are also expanding the use of non-laboratory based tests. The test team works on these 18 hours a day, seven days a week. We realize that the country depends on us. & # 39;
Embarrassingly, the problems arise when Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed his Operation Moonshot last week and is slated to have mass tests running in the UK by next year.
He said that a pilot program will be launched in Salford next month that will test indoor and outdoor audiences that day to see if it's contagious.
Those who test positive for coronavirus will be sent home, while those who test negative will be admitted.
The prime minister said that if the pilot is successful, the measures could be rolled out nationwide He wanted everyone in the UK to have access to daily coronavirus tests at some point, with pregnancy tests showing results in just 15 minutes.
Mr Johnson said at a Downing Street coronavirus news conference that negative testing would effectively give people a "passport" that would give them the "freedom to mingle with everyone else who, in ways that are not currently impossible, either." are contagious ".
The Prime Minister said he hoped the mass testing approach would be "widespread" by spring.
Mr Johnson said at a news conference last week that so far, tests have mainly been used to identify people with the disease so that they can be isolated from the rest of society.
The prime minister said this will continue to be a priority with the aim of increasing testing capacity to 500,000 a day by the end of October.
But he said that "in the near future we want to start using tests to identify negative people … so we can allow them to act more normally".
He said that new types of coronavirus tests that are "simple, fast, and scalable are becoming available" that can deliver results in 90 or even 20 minutes and run millions of dollars in tests every day.
Mr Johnson said, "This level of testing would allow people to lead more normal lives without the need for social distancing."
Ms. Marsh said there is capacity at the test sites, but the laboratories doing the tests are at a "critical point".
Bolton has been subjected to tightened lockdown restrictions in some cases after a surge, and was the first place in England last week to force pubs back into take-out service.
Other imposed measures include limiting hours of operation, with venues being closed from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., and a law stating that people outside of their household cannot socialize.
Another 96 cases of people with coronavirus were confirmed in Bolton yesterday, bringing the cumulative total to 3,239.
A Bolton Council spokesman said he was aware that the government is planning to open three new walk-in and drive-in test centers near them so that more appointments are available.
Council Chairman David Greenhalgh said today, “We fully understand how frustrating it is for people who have difficulty booking a test.
& # 39; This is an unacceptable situation and I and senior executives have taken the problem to the highest levels.
& # 39; In our experience there are major flaws with the online booking system, but this is a nationally operated website which is not operated locally and is beyond our control.
“We as the local authority did everything that was asked of us. Our teams have worked hard to increase testing capacity in Bolton – two new testing centers have opened in the community and a third is scheduled to open this week. and yet we know that these two new locations are currently working under capacity and our own residents do not have access to a local test.
“This is unacceptable and needs to be clarified and the problems resolved. I urge the government to treat this as a matter of the highest priority.
“We would ask people to book an appointment in a few hours. Also, please only book a test if you have coronavirus symptoms or have been asked to be tested. & # 39;
Matt Hancock last week accused people of trying a coronavirus test when they didn't have symptoms of the virus, claiming the demand for these cases had increased 25 percent.
The instructions make it clear that the tests are only for those who have symptoms or have been asked to test by the authorities.
Mr. Hancock only asked those with symptoms to get a test in response to a residue caused by "laboratory problems".
A sign in Bolton orders those suffering from coronavirus symptoms to get a test despite a lack of testing capacity
Ms Sturgeon has accused the UK government of trying to limit the number of tests available in Scotland while speaking at the Scottish Government's coronavirus briefing.
"We were concerned over the weekend that the UK government was trying, among other things, to deal with the backlog by restricting access to tests and the Minister of Health managed to avoid this in Scotland," she said.
She also expressed "serious concern" about the test jam and urged Mr. Hancock to share the "full extent and nature of the problems they are facing" so that her government could help resolve the problem.
She continued: “Over the weekend there was a proposal to reduce the available slots in mobile testing units and regional testing centers in Scotland and the Minister of Health was able to avoid this so we could keep full capacity for Scotland.
& # 39; We currently have no evidence of any significant problem in Scotland with people accessing test slots.
"The problem that we seem to be having some impact on – and it is again a UK problem – is a backlog in the processing of tests which then results in longer turnaround time."
Scottish Health Minister Jeane Freeman said she had "constructive discussions" with Mr Hancock and her Welsh counterpart Vaughan Gething about the backlog she believes is caused by increasing demand and a "problem with the speed and capacity of testing" has been.
She added, “I was delighted that we did not manage to have the originally proposed restrictions on access to test slots, but this is work that we must continue because we must try as best we can to work cooperatively and resolve this situation. & # 39;
Government data shows that test capacity growth has largely stalled since mid-July, when around 350,000 tests were performed daily.
On September 10, the last day for which data is available, 374,000 tests were processed by laboratories across the country.
It is because the UK is seeing a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, with cases reported daily staying above 2,000 for more than a week.
Another 2,621 cases of coronavirus were recorded in the UK today and fears of a second wave have increased.
According to government statistics, an average of 2,998 infections are recorded daily. For comparison, more than 3,300 cases were confirmed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Top experts insist the UK doesn't need to panic about the rising numbers just yet, as this is just a fraction of the over 100,000 that has encountered each day during the darkest period of the crisis. However, other scientists say measures are needed to prevent another wave from hitting Britain.
Another nine coronavirus deaths have also been recorded, bringing the official coronavirus death toll to 41,637.
The UK Ministry of Health has been asked to comment.