Frustration for Northampton parents unable to book Covid tests for children online but turned away from walk-in centres

"My daughter can't go back until she gets a test. I was trying from 11am yesterday. I finally got one at 8.30pm. I just sat there refreshing it again and again"

By Alastair Ulke
Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 4:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 5:00 pm
None of Northamptonshire's testing centres are offering walk-in appointments as of last week.
None of Northamptonshire's testing centres are offering walk-in appointments as of last week.

Frustrated Northampton parents say their children's first weeks back at school have been put on hold by the national Covid-19 testing fiasco.

Residents in Northamptonshire have been told all Covid-19 tests at any of its eight testing centres must now be booked in advance while the Department for Health diverts resources to "more urgent" counties.

It comes as labs across the country reportedly do not have the capacity to cope with the number of swabs they are receiving.

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But countless people have now shared how they have been rebuffed by the page and either told there are no tests in their area or offered a test centre dozens of miles away.

Outside Northampton's testing centre on the Market Square yesterday (September 15), The Chron met with family after family who were either turned away for not having an appointment or had only earned a slot after hours of trying.

One mum said: "My daughter can't go back until she gets a test. I was trying 11am yesterday. I finally got one at 8.30pm.

"I just sat there refreshing it again and again.

"And honestly, it didn't take as long as I thouhgt it would. I know it's too important. She's missing out on her first week back at school."

Another mum spoke to the Chron after she was turned away for not having an appointment.

She said: "I managed to book two appointments for my children - they offered me centres in Leicester and Kettering. I was prepared to go, absolutely.

"But when I went to put my car reg plate in and confirm it, it booted me out and I couldn't book it.

"I came down today just to try my luck. No one in the house can carry on until we get tested. I'll just have to keep trying."

The problems were the same for dozens of people at the centre yesterday - tired and frustrated residents told they can't get on with their lives until they get tested, yet unable to book one online and unable to attend a walk-in clinic in the whole county.

All of Northamptonshire's eight testing sites closed their walk-in capabilities on Friday last week. No tests were available in parts of Northamptonshire at just after 6pm last night — when people are being advised they have the best chance of booking.

And, Rhosyn Harris, one of Northamptonshire's four Public Health consultants working under director of public health Lucy Wightman, yesterday insisted people should be able to get tests if they check on the government after 6pm.

She said: "New slots are released for the following day at 6pm. If you wait until 6pm you should be able to book for the following day.

"This is a national issue where labs across the country have not got the capacity to process all the swabs they are receiving.

"What we've had to do is limit the number of testing slots and spread out capacity through the day so we don't collect more tests than labs can cope with and they have to be thrown away.

"The number of slots available matches the capacity in labs.

"We've been reassured by the Government that people should not be sent more than 50 miles to testing sites so we're hoping that position has improved.

"We're getting reassurance from the Government that they are expanding lab capacity. But, obviously, at the moment that increase in capacity is not going fast enough to meet demand, particularly since schools have gone back."

Wellingborough MP Peter Bone has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding an explanation after hearing of people being turned away from test centres.