Patients told to travel hundreds of miles as COVID-19 testing labs reach ‘critical’ capacity

The director of testing at NHS Test and Trace has confirmed labs have reached a “critical pinch-point”. 

James McKay
8 September 2020
Car testing PPE

Patients are being told to travel hundreds of miles to get tested.

Across the country, patients have been left with no access to COVID-19 testing as testing laboratories reach their “critical” capacity.


Reports are also emerging across social media of patients being told to travel hundreds of miles to their nearest availaible testing facility.

The director of testing at NHS Test and Trace has confirmed that while testing sites have capacity, laboratories have reached a “critical pinch-point”.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, tweeted; “Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a COVID test at present.

“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, its our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point.


She followed up with: “We have additional NHS, Lighthouse, University and Partner Labs all due to open up imminently and we are also expanding the use of non-Laboratory based tests.

“The Testing Team work on this 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Get a grip.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, Chair of Council for the British Medical Association, said; “The admission from Test and Trace’s own director of testing that lab capacity is at ‘critical pinch point’ underlines the urgent need for the Government to get a grip on the testing system that is clearly not delivering.

“In recent days we’ve heard concerning reports from doctors that they or their patients are unable to access tests and follow-up results at what is a critical time in the fight against Covid-19. These doctors are themselves frustrated but equally concerned for patients who are contacting them unsure of what to do.


“We’ve seen numbers of cases rise exponentially in the last two days, with warnings for the public not to be complacent – yet such a failure in testing strategy completely undermines any attempt to bring the infection rate down.

“An effective test and trace system is crucial in managing our response and reducing case numbers, and if people cannot get tested then there is no way of identifying local outbreaks and minimising community spread.”

“The Government must provide an urgent update on how it plans to address this failure that seriously threatens England’s ability to reduce the spread of this deadly virus.”

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