Covid testing in Huntingdonshire is ‘shambolic’

Coronavirus testing is now available appointment only or through home testing kits following a surge

Coronavirus testing is now available appointment only or through home testing kits following a surge in demand. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A lack of availability for coronavirus tests is causing widespread frustration across the district.

The Hunts Post has been contacted by readers who have phoned the 119 testing line and are then kept on hold for 90 minutes, only to then be disconnected or told to call back as there is nothing available.

Others told us children are being sent home from school with a high temperature, but with no testing available, parents are forced to self-isolate, sometimes, unpaid because they can’t book tests. Under current school guidelines, pupils are not able to return to school unless they have been tested.

Home secretary Priti Patel told the BBC on Tuesday morning that it was “wrong to say tests were not available”, adding: “New booking slots are being made available every day, mobile testing units are being made available and on top of that, home testing kits are being issued across the country but specifically in local lockdown areas.”

When challenged by a BBC journalist, she did say: “I haven’t said there isn’t a shortage of tests.”

Mobile testing sites were set up in St Neots and Huntingdon last week and while this was positive for some, others experienced even more frustration.

Mandy Watkins, from Somersham, turned up at One Leisure with her daughter, Orla, at 10am on Friday, September 11, only to find there was no test centre.

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She said: “My daughter was sent home with a high temperature and is not allowed back into school, until she has had a Covid-19 test.

“I spent all day trying to get her a test and all they could offer me was one in Bedford, so I saw that there was a Covid-19 testing centre at One Leisure in Huntingdon and took my daughter there.

“When we arrived, there were many people there looking confused as the mobile testing centre was not there. We are unsure whether it has been moved to another location or not.”

A spokesman for Huntingdon District Council (HDC) said: “The decision of when and where Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) are set-up is a decision made by the nationally-commissioned testing service.

“In response to concerns about the long-term viability of the One Leisure Huntingdon site, the testing service made the decision to cancel the use of One Leisure Huntingdon as a site at short notice. HDC has offered assistance to find another suitable local site.”

Trying to book a test using the NHS website is also causing huge problems for people such as Laura Harrison who told us she was refreshing the website page continually with no luck.

Laura said: “Absolutely fuming doesn’t cover my feelings in the slightest. I have been trying to arrange a test at a drive-in centre since September 12 at 4pm.

“I tried up until 6.45pm on Sunday. I was refreshing the site every half an hour for 27 hours. Even through the night, It’s absolutely shambolic.”

Another parent from Eaton Socon told us her daughter had been sent home from school on Monday and it was impossible to get through to anyone on the phone or via the website.

A father from Brampton said he was advised to go to Leicester and then Enfield and said operators seem to have no sense of geography and how far people would need to travel to get to a testing centre. He managed to get a test at the mobile centre in Huntingdon and said this was straightforward and the tests results were back the following day.

The high demand for coronavirus tests has forced the Government to change the way it operates smaller test sites in Cambridgeshire, it was announced on Tuesday. A surge in demand in the last week has meant a re-think of the approach and tests are now by appointment only or through using home testing kits.