Troubles getting a COVID-19 test on the Isle of Wight has led heads of public health bodies to call on the government to do something to help a ‘faltering system’ — as people are travelling on and off the Island for a chance of being tested.
Residents have been struggling to book a test, either at the testing site at Newclose Cricket Ground or via post, since problems arose surrounding national lab capacities.
However, the issues have left Simon Bryant, the Island’s director of public health, with ‘his hands tied around his back’ as he has been given local control but cannot do anything.
Speaking at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s policy and scrutiny committee for health and social care, Mr Bryant said:
“I know there have been challenges with testing, particularly in the last two weeks, due to a national issue in the labs as the capacity hasn’t kept up with the demands — which is a huge problem.
“We are working with our department for health and social care colleagues as much as we can to increase testing capacity.”
Mr Bryant also said the 75-mile limit for travelling for a test was ‘completely inappropriate’ but even more so for the Island. He said:
“It is not acceptable to have people travel far for a test. We are doing all we can but this is a national problem we are trying to solve.”
Dr Michele Legg, chair of the Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), told the committee of the troubles the team are having at the drive-in testing site. She said:
“There hasn’t been any internet access to book tests at the site, there hasn’t been any availability to get postal delivery and we are advising people not to drop in.
“We have had several enquires about this — the police have been queuing outside because they want to know what to advise people who are ringing.
“This has to be escalated nationally, extremely quickly. We haven’t even gone into winter yet or had a surge and the system is really faltering. They have to sort this out.”
Chief executive of the Isle of Wight Council, John Metcalfe, said he and the 22 bosses of upper-tier local authorities in the south have written to the secretary of state asking for more access to tests to make the local programmes work.
Mr Bryant said:
“We are pushing it and we are seeing extra lab capacity coming online but it is out biggest risk — if we cannot test people, we do not know who has got [Covid-19] and then we cannot trace them.
“It is difficult because we have been given local control yet my hands are tied behind my back so I cannot do anything.
“But we are working very closely with the NHS Trust and the CCG to see if we can come up with local solutions in the interim.”
Mr Bryant also said contact tracing programmes on the Island were going ‘really well’ with well over 80 per cent of contacts on the Island and in the South East being traced.
A local track and trace programme, alongside the national one, is also in the pipeline with the public health team looking at how and when it could be stepped up.
It was also reiterated that you should only book a test if you are showing symptoms but to keep trying to get one on the Island with the different slots released at different times of the day.