NHS accused of coronavirus testing shortage in south east but PHE refuse to admit scarcity

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People with coronavirus symptoms have been unable to get home-testing kits in the south east and instead been told to travel miles to testing centres. Some people, who have been showing symptoms, have been told there are no tests available for several days in a row.

Areas in the south east, notably boroughs of London including Hackney, Chislehurst and Greenwich, have completely ran out of home testing kits this week.

The tests, put online from 8am each morning, have ran out almost immediately.

People trying to get a test have then been hit with an error messaging stating: “Sorry, there are no more home test kits available right now. Try again later.”

One person, who then contacted the customer service line was then told the tests are “as hard to get as Glastonbury tickets” – which famously run out within just minutes of going live.

She told Express.co.uk the customer service assistant told her she could go to a testing centre 43 miles away, but just a handful of slots were available to book over the new few days.

Another person told this website they too were unable to get a home-testing kit, despite being a frontline health worker.

A message on the official website read: “Sorry, there is a problem with the service. No tests are currently available.”

Dozens of others have also fumed that they were unable to access a coronavirus test, despite showing symptoms.

Some Londoners have been told to travel between 50 and 135 miles to testing sites in Cardiff and the Isle of Wight.

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In Devon, some people have been told to go to a testing centre 109 miles away in Carmarthen, while one person in Worthing was told to travel 40 miles.

Someone in Cumbria had to travel 50 miles away to Dumfries and in Sheffield, the closes available testing centre was 20 miles away.

One NHS medic, who wished to remain anonymous, said they thought the surge in demand was fuelled by the start of the flu season.

They said as people start to show cold or flu symptoms as the weather changes, they are checking to see if they have COVID-19.

When quizzed by Express.co.uk Public Health England (PHE)’s overarching parent organisation the Department of Health and Social Care said coronavirus tests were being prioritised in areas of high risk.

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A spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working – we are working to increase national testing capacity and hundreds of thousands of people are being tested every day.

“There is a high demand for tests and our laboratories continue to turn test results around as quickly as possible.

“To make sure we stay in control of this virus we are targeting our testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.

“We are expanding testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October – as well as bringing in new technology to process tests even faster.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was also grilled on the lack of tests available in the south east.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s true we’ve put a huge amount of testing into the areas of outbreak where the number of cases are much higher.

“If people need a test, the vast majority get it quickly and close to home.

“But when those testing centres are full then obviously people are offered a test at the nearest place where one is available.”

Mr Hancock said there were “operational challenges”, adding that the trial of new rapid tests, which produce a result within 20minutes, could “solve the problem”.

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