Richmond and Twickenham Lib Dems call for better Test and Trace service


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Munira Wilson, Sarah Olney and Gareth Roberts have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock about the failures of the test and trace service. 

Twickenham MP Munira, who is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, has been pressing Mr Hancock on the issue in Parliament. 

Now she has been joined by Sarah, MP for Richmond Park, and Richmond Council leader Gareth in highlighting the issues the borough is facing in a letter to the Health Secretary. 

Letter to Matt Hancock from Richmond and Twickenham MPs and Richmond council leader 

The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Department of Health and Social Care
39 Victoria Street
London, SW1H 0EU

16 September 2020

We are writing to express our significant concerns over the current lack of access to Covid-19 testing for residents living in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames.

As is the case in many parts of the country, local residents who need to access Covid-19 tests are being sent great distances away. In some circumstances, people have been asked to travel as far as Newquay and Aberdeen for a test. Leaving aside that these far exceed the
75 mile target you pledged last week, it is completely unfeasible to expect those potentially ill with the virus to travel significant distances to access a test, as well as a breach of Government guidance. 

Others are unable to get access to drive-through testing sites at all. For over a week now, home testing kits have not been available.

We have also been alerted to potential mapping issues when the gov.uk testing website is finding the nearest site for residents to get tested. Twickenham Stadium as a testing site appears to be incorrectly registered, with some residents finding that the website claims it is 6 miles away when in actual fact it is only 1 mile from where they live.  

More concerningly, some residents have found they can only access tests at the Twickenham Stadium testing site if they input a postcode from Scotland, rather than their home address. This is patently ridiculous. 

We have discussed these matters in great detail with our local Director of Public Health and he shares our concerns. We would urge you to contact him.

These issues are having a significant impact on people being able to go about their daily lives. People are having to self-isolate and wait for a test rather than go to work or school. Headteachers are having to make medical decisions on whether to turn away students because they cannot access tests. There are also significant pressures on schools locally as staffing levels have reduced due to teachers being unable to get tests.  It seems clear to us that, unless urgent action is taken, schools will have no choice other than to close. 

With the potential for a second wave, we are extremely concerned that Test & Trace is not functioning effectively, thus potentially putting local residents’ lives, education and livelihoods at risk.

We would therefore be grateful if you could address the following questions: 

  1. Why is it currently possible on the testing website to access testing sites on the other side of the country or by inputting an incorrect postcode to access the nearest site?  What is the Government doing to fix this issue in ensuring the locations of the testing sites are correct within the computer mapping of the system?
  2. What is the primary cause of the lack of access to testing? What impact do the following issues have on access to testing:
    • Supply chain issues with reagents and kits
    • Laboratory staffing levels
    • Testing site capacity
      What actions are being taken to address issues in these areas?
  3. How are you ensuring that test sites have implemented robust mechanisms for communicating with the laboratories so that they are responsible for increases and/or decreases in demand?
  4. What actions are you taking to restore the postal test kit service and ensure it is fit for purpose?
  5. What actions can local authorities and we as local MPs do to support efforts? Please outline the plan to communicate these actions to the relevant officials and representatives.

We all want to return to normality as soon as it is safe and feasible. A functioning test and trace system is a key part of being able to achieve this and it is crucial that the Government is transparent on what is going wrong as well as the measures being taken to resolve it. 

Regards, 

Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham
Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park
Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of the Richmond-upon-Thames Council

 


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