A NURSERY owner said it is “ridiculous” families are being told to travel for miles to get a test for coronavirus.
Shanna Cheesman, who runs Hungry Minds Childcare in Dyke Road, Hove, said she received two phone calls from parents yesterday morning who were having to travel as far as Wales and Dorset to get their children tested.
She said: “Both families have children who developed a cough over the weekend and so they contacted the NHS test and trace service.
“One of the families got up at the crack of dawn to drive to Swansea and the other was told they could only get a test in Weymouth.
“Now they’ve closed the Amex test centre people have been sent all over the place. In theory they should be able to get tested at Gatwick but if there’s not enough space people are being sent much further away. It’s ridiculous.”
Currently, anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 can use the government website to book a test at a mobile or regional test centre or to order a home test kit if they are within the first four days of symptoms.
While test centres can return results within 48 hours of taking a swab, results may take up to 72 hours for home test kits.
Shanna believes another test centre is urgently needed in Brighton so all families can access testing and test results quickly and easily, including those who do not have a vehicle.
She said: “I would have thought most parents would think ‘I’m not doing that’ if they were told they had to go to Swansea for a test. Parents need to take days off work to do that ten-hour round trip. What if you don’t have a car?
“They are pricing an awful lot of families out of getting a test.
“Although case numbers in Brighton are low at the moment compared to places up north, parents need the option to get tested as quickly and easily as possible, otherwise we will be back to square one.”
Shanna thanked the two families who made the effort to travel to Weymouth and Swansea testing centres.
She said: “Neither of the families questioned it. As far as they were concerned they had to get the all-clear as soon as possible and we’re eternally grateful. Our children desperately need to be in childcare and they need to be back in school.”
The distance from Brighton to Weymouth is 125 miles, while the journey to Swansea is 226 miles.
A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “There is a national issue with the number of tests that can be processed now due to laboratories across the country being at capacity.
“This means new bookings are unavailable at busy times or people are being offered options far from their home.
“If this occurs, government advice is to try again in a few hours rather than travel long distances with Covid-19 symptoms. This is also affecting the availability of home testing kits.”
For Brighton residents, testing options include a mobile testing centre in Withdean and the regional test centre at Gatwick. Tests must be pre-booked online through the NHS or government websites, the council said.
The spokesman said: “We are working with the NHS and the government departments who commission and provide testing services for local areas to find suitable new testing sites in the city that meet the necessary requirements. However until national capacity is increased residents are likely to find that online booking options are limited at busy times.”
The Department for Health and Social Care said improvements are being made to the system of allocating regional testing slots to ensure the distance limit “does not go beyond 75 miles”.
A spokesman said: “We are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.”
— to www.theargus.co.uk