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Local GPs voice serious concerns over Covid-19 testing capacity

Joint statement from Dr Will Hynds and Dr Bruce Hughes, respective Chairs of Kernow Local Medical Committee and Devon Local Medical Committee

Kernow Local Medical Committee and Devon Local Medical Committee (LMC) have serious concerns about coronavirus testing capacity across our counties.

It has come to our attention that for several weeks there have been either few testing slots available a long way from sick patients – for example Aberdeen or Cardiff – or next to no tests available at all.

This situation is unacceptable for patients and healthcare workers for several reasons.

  • Patients are unlikely to travel long distances when they are ill and this means that many will go untested. Their Covid-19 status will be unknown and the Track and Trace system will not be activated. This may allow further and unregulated spread of the virus for positive cases.
  • When a healthcare worker or a household member develops symptoms the healthcare worker is unable to attend work to perform their vital duties until a negative test has been received.
  • Most worryingly the true rate of infection in our area will be hugely underestimated. GPs are increasingly experiencing patients with Covid-like symptoms, with a sharp rise in suspected cases. Due to this under-reporting, patients who are severely vulnerable, such as those that received shielding letters, may be denied the chance to make an informed decision to avoid potential exposure. This could result in serious illness or even death.

Kernow and Devon LMCs feel that they have a duty of care to make the local population aware of this situation and urge the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to rectify this immediately.

We recognise and appreciate the efforts of the local health system to deliver Covid testing, despite being severely hindered by national issues outside its control. 

The local laboratory teams and their swabbing partners continue to offer Covid testing to health and care workers with the limited spare capacity available. The Peninsula Pathology NHS Network is actively working with local Public Health teams to set up local testing on a prioritised basis to ensure that swabbing and testing is available as soon as possible.  

Kernow and Devon LMCs are the only independent statutory representatives of GPs in the two counties.

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