MSP warns Covid-19 testing is not being used efficiently

Isles MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has raised concerns about the consistency of Covid-19 testing across Scotland.

Mr Halcro Johnston, MSP for the Highlands and Island  said some testing was happening too long after symptoms first appeared, resulting in negative tests.

Questioning the cabinet secretary for health Jeane Freeman at Holyrood on Wednesday, he added that that guidance from the Scottish Government giving individual NHS boards flexibility on testing risked there being no consistent approach across the country.

Mr Halcro Johnston has now written to Ms Freeman to further raise his concerns, and to ask her to ensure NHS staff and other frontline workers have priority access to new antibody testing when it is available.

He said: “Testing for Covid-19 is an important but limited resource, and it is vital that it is used effectively.

“I am seeking reassurance from the cabinet secretary that we will see more consistency across Scotland’s NHS regions when it comes to testing, as the previous guidance from the government seems to allow a surprising degree of flexibility; flexibility which risks making it harder to get an accurate picture of the impact of the pandemic across the country. 

“It risks leaving frontline NHS workers without the confirmation that they had Covid-19, and without the reassurance that they may have some immunity to it, even when they’ve had the symptoms and self-isolated.

“It also means that, in some cases, a valuable but limited resource is being inefficiently used.

 “I am also seeking further clarification on antibody testing, which the cabinet secretary accepted would play a “key” role. However, she wouldn’t confirm whether or not NHS staff and other frontline workers would have priority access to the new antibody testing.

“I hope the health secretary will be able to give some reassurance to our NHS staff, and other frontline workers such as police officers and carers, that they will have access to these tests when they become available.”

In response, Ms Freeman said: “Testing is as accurate as can be.

“As the first minister has said more than once, and as the chief medical officer has consistently made clear, we know that the numbers are an underestimate of the prevalence of the virus in the community.

“That is why the first minister has outlined measures, including our being part of the UK-wide testing initiative, that will allow us to increase our testing capacity.”

 Ms Freeman added that the antibody testing would be key.

“We are working with the other three nations of the UK, and hope that we will have a reliable and robust antibody test in the near future,” she said. 

“We will make effective use of that to assist us not only with testing the health and social care workforce, but in making decisions about the steps that we must take in order that we can come out of the current delay stage, with its necessary restrictions, and move forward to the stage, in which we contain spread of the virus.”



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