Coronavirus test frustration for Bury St Edmunds families
Families have voiced frustration after struggling to book coronavirus tests and, in some cases, have had to travel around 70 miles to get to the nearest testing centre.
Some have complained of having to constantly refresh their phones or computers to try to book slots, and of being turned away by staff at testing centres who are telling them there are no spaces available.
Nicola Oak, 36, from Bury St Edmunds , said that when her son Fraser, one, was tested five weeks ago, there were no issues, but that earlier this week when she had to take him to get tested again, she had to drive an hour and a half to Spalding, in Lincolnshire, to get the test done.
She said that while the staff at the centres had been good, it was a ‘shame’ they had had to travel so far to get the test done.
Emily Rogers, 31, of Bury, said she had been trying to book a test for herself after her step-daughter, Talia-Mae, three, was sent home from pre-school on Monday with a cough.
At one stage Emily was directed to her ‘nearest’ available test centre in Kettering, Northamptonshire, so she instead drove direct to the centre in Bury to try to get an appointment, but was told she would need a reference number to take a test and was turned away.
She said: “It’s definitely frustrating, concerning and I just feel like there should be an easier way to book an appointment for such an important test.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk, said earlier this week it could be a ‘matter of weeks’ before testing issues were resolved.
When asked to comment on the situation across the country, and in Bury, he said: “While we are working to overcome the operational challenges with the testing system, the demand for tests has risen.
“There were 261 tests taken in the West Suffolk Council area on Monday, so I’m glad to confirm that the vast majority of people who need a test can get a test.”
Mr Hancock said last week on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the reason for a shortage of tests was due to an increase in people without symptoms trying to book in for one.
The Department of Health and Social Care is the body tasked with carrying out the coronavirus tests on a local level and re-iterated the message.
A spokesperson for the department said: “NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at an unprecedented scale – 200,000 a day on average over the last week – with the vast majority of people getting tested within six miles of their home.
“There has been a spike in demand in recent weeks and the message is clear – only people with symptoms should be requesting a test.
“We’re doing everything possible to overcome this challenge – including by bringing in new labs that can process tens of thousands of tests a day, opening new test sites, and trialling new rapid tests that will give results on the spot.
“As we expand capacity further, we will continue to work around the clock to make sure that everyone who needs a test can get one.”
Across England, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases last Monday was over 3,000, a figure that stayed relatively consistent for the following four days.
As of Wednesday midday, 83 patients who tested positive for coronavirus at West Suffolk Hospital had passed away.