Plans to roll out remote testing are held up by red tape


Is THIS the real reason coronavirus testing is such a shambles? Plans to roll out remote Covid-19 screening are held up by red tape as officials insist on ‘weeks’ of training for testers

  • Scheme to post swabs to private homes and care facilities was due for this week
  • However, bureaucrats insist anyone who conducts tests must be ‘accredited’
  • Matt Hancock reveals first vaccine trials will be run for volunteers on Thursday
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Plans to roll out remote coronavirus testing are being held up by red tape, a senior Government advisor has warned.

A scheme to post swabs to care homes and private addresses was ready to start this week in a bid to quickly increase test numbers.

But it has been delayed by bureaucrats who insist anyone who conducts tests must be ‘accredited’.

Coronavirus testing was taking place today in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, pictured

With the Government unlikely to hit its 100,000-tests-a-day target by the end of the month, remote testing is seen as the key to get things moving.

Professor John Newton, who leads the Government’s testing drive, last night told the daily No 10 briefing it was important that test swabs were sent to people ‘rather than expecting people to come to the swabs’.

But Dr Nick Summerton, a special clinical advisor to Downing Street, says he is frustrated with the hurdles that are being put up by agencies such as the Care Quality Commission and Public Health England.

Doctors have made an online video telling care staff and patients how to do tests but officials insist proper training is needed. 

A patient, pictured, is taken into the Covid ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk

A patient, pictured, is taken into the Covid ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk

UK sets hopes on its first human trials of vaccine 

Volunteers will tomorrow become the first Britons to receive a coronavirus vaccine, the Health Secretary announced last night.

Matt Hancock said the first of 510 healthy volunteers will get the jab to help experts find a route out of the crisis.

Work on the vaccine began at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute and its Oxford Vaccine Group in January.

Health secretary Matt Hancock, pictured, says volunteers will be the first to receive a coronavirus vaccine

Health secretary Matt Hancock, pictured, says volunteers will be the first to receive a coronavirus vaccine

The volunteers, aged 18 to 55, will start receiving it in Oxford and Southampton, with three further testing centres to be added later.

Results could be available in September, with one million doses already in production. It is the first UK vaccine trial to begin testing humans – and only the fourth globally. The US has started two studies and China has one.

Mr Hancock said: ‘This is a new disease, this is uncertain science. The UK is at the front of the global effort.

‘We have put more money than any other country into a search for a vaccine.’

A second vaccine project at Imperial College London will receive £22.5million for clinical trials, while Oxford will be granted £20million. 

A scheme to use Amazon drivers to send 5,000 self-test kits to care homes has barely begun because of official insistence that care staff are trained and assessed. And the pilot of a scheme to send test kits to patients who call NHS 111 is facing similar resistance.

Dr Summerton, who also works as a Covid-19 specialist on the 111 phone line, said: ‘Virtually every patient I speak to could benefit from testing.’

With just eight days to go until the end-of-April 100,000 target, only 18,206 tests took place on Monday. 

There is now capacity to process nearly 40,000 tests a day but only half is being used.

Dr Summerton also wants to use occupational health therapists and private firms to conduct tests in GP car parks or patient homes. 

‘The public and the economy are crying out for testing. But Public Health England and the Care Quality Commission are coming up with hurdles,’ he said.

Of 5,000 kits sitting in an Amazon warehouse ready to be sent to care homes only 200 have been sent out so far.

‘CQC has decided that care homes cannot do that if staff are not trained and accredited to stick a swab up someone’s nose,’ said Dr Summerton. 

‘That’s going to take weeks. If we don’t get the testing done we will end up locked in our homes and the economy will go down the tube.’

Dr Rosie Benneyworth of the Care Quality Commission said: ‘Care home residents are some of the most vulnerable people in society and it is essential that these tests are carried out accurately and effectively, and that residents understand the purpose of the test and have the opportunity to fully consent. 

‘It’s crucial that those undertaking the testing are appropriately trained and competent. Where a test is incorrectly undertaken there is a greater risk that it will produce a false negative result.’

A spokesman for Public Health England said: ‘The Department of Health and Social Care is currently carrying out pilot schemes at pace to decide the best way of delivering this testing nationwide and PHE is fully supportive of this approach.’ 

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