GPs in England say they have ‘no idea’ how many of their patients have coronavirus because the Government is not sharing test results with them.
Family doctors and councils were promised the results from hundreds of thousands of swabs carried out at drive-through centres weeks ago.
But the Government’s national testing programme coordinator said there had been ‘data quality issues’ which had prevented the information being shared.
GPs and local health officials today slammed the ‘failing’ Government for leaving them in the dark about how many people in their community are infected.
Dominic Harrison, director of public health at Blackburn with Darwen council in Lancashire, said he has no idea if ’10, 100 or 1,000′ residents have tested positive.
And one GP in Oxford said the only way she found out if a patient of hers had the bug was if they were ill enough to be admitted to hospital.
It comes after the Government was mauled missing its 100,000 daily testing target for the fourth day in a row on Wednesday.
GPs in England say they have ‘no idea’ how many of their patients have coronavirus because the Government is not sharing test results from drive-through centres. Pictured: The Edgbaston Cricket Ground COVID-19 testing site in Birmingham
The Government was mauled missing its 100,000 daily testing target for the fourth day in a row on Wednesday. Figures show just 69,463 swabs were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am, down from 84,806 on Tuesday
Figures show just 69,463 swabs were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday, down from 84,806 the day before.
Opposition figures and medics slammed the shortfall, saying it ‘doesn’t inspire confidence’ in plans for easing lockdown, which are expected to be announced on Sunday.
Since late March, the Government has been relying on private firm Deloitte to do the majority of its coronavirus tests at drive through centres or via the post.
The move came as part of ministers’ ‘pillar two’ testing scheme to ramp up the number of daily tests to its 100,000 target.
Officials promised GPs that results would be linked to the medical records of patients in England – but so far that has failed to materialise.
Helen Salisbury, a GP at the Observatory Practice in Oxford, told The Guardian she has 100 suspected COVID-19 cases on her list and has only been given the results of five.
Public Health England’s medical director, Prof Yvonne Doyle, pictured, said the number of tests performed in the United Kingdom had increased while showing a slide which illustrated how fewer tests have taken place every day since April 30
She told the paper: ‘We have had absolutely zero information. The only way I know if a patient of mine has tested positive for Covid is if they have been ill enough to be admitted to hospital. It feels like we’ve been completely left out of the conversation, whereas most of the Covid out there is being handled by GPs.’
Nick Mann, a GP at the Well Street surgery in Hackney, London, said: ‘As a GP I’m absolutely fuming, not only with the way it’s been mishandled but with the unreliable information we are getting. This government has developed a completely parallel system in order to bypass the NHS, and it’s failing.’
The Government’s COVID-19 testing tsar, Professor John Newton, apologised during a conference call on Wednesday with directors of public health at local authorities across England. He said there had been ‘data quality issues’.
It comes after Public Health England’s Prof Yvonne Doyle insisted nationwide Covid-19 testing is increasing – despite showing a sharp decline since Matt Hancock’s 100,000 a day deadline on April 30.
Addressing Wednesday’s Downing Street coronavirus press briefing, Professor Doyle said the number of tests have been increasing and this can explain the increase in the number of positive cases of Covid-19.
However, the slide she used during the briefing showed a dramatic decline in the number of tests since April 30, which was Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s deadline for reaching 100,000 tests a day.
Opposition leaders have demanded an explanation for the decline in coronavirus testing, after the Government missed its 100,000-a-day target for the fourth day in a row.
Labour said that the news ‘does not inspire confidence’ in plans to begin easing the UK lockdown, which are expected to be announced on Sunday.
A total of 69,463 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday, according to Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
The testing total was 84,806 up to 9am on Tuesday, 85,186 up to 9am on Monday and 76,496 up to 9am on Sunday.
During her briefing, Prof Doyle said: ‘The important message is that we should all respect that this virus does transmit and we should stay at home and not to interact too much because people are still very vulnerable to getting this virus.
‘Now, we can see hear the daily tests and these have increased over time and this is up to May 6… but I’ll move on to the next slide which is of interest which is new cases.’
Commenting on the rise in Covid-19, she said: ‘We are doing more testing so we are going to find more new cases, and this is what we want to do. We want to find the positive cases and break transmission.’
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘One hundred thousand completed tests a day was pledged. Instead testing has gone down for the fourth day in a row.
‘Testing should be going up, not be on this downward trajectory. Ministers need to explain why they are failing to deliver the testing promised.’
Boris Johnson marked his return to the Commons by setting a new ambition for increasing test capacity to 200,000 a day by the end of the month.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pressed the prime minister on why current capacity had not been fully utilised since the end of April.
‘On April 30, the Government claimed success in meeting its 100,000 tests-a-day target. Since then, as the Prime Minister knows, the number has fallen back,’ he said.
‘On Monday, there were just 84,000 tests and that meant 24,000 available tests were not used.
‘What does the Prime Minister think was so special about April 30 that meant that testing that day was so high?’
Deputy leader Angela Rayner added that the ‘consistent downward trend’ was ‘really not good enough’.
‘It doesn’t inspire confidence to start easing lockdown,’ she wrote on Twitter.