Privatised Covid-19 test regime branded “shambolic” by MP as constituent gets tested after pretending to live in Scotland, reports James Cracknell
A Palmers Green resident says he was told by a local Covid-19 testing centre official that the best way to get an appointment was to pretend he lived in Glasgow.
Steven Rawlinson was unable to use the government’s online booking system to secure an appointment with NHS Test and Trace last week but decided, in frustration, to visit the testing facility at Lodge Drive close to where he lives.
Steven told the Dispatch: “There were lots of [private contractor] Serco employees there milling around, but no-one was being tested.
“He [a Serco employee] said: ‘If you go home and put in a Glasgow postcode, we can test you here.’ This is while most Enfield residents are being told there are no tests.”
Steven later tested negative for Covid-19, allowing him to return to work. “If I hadn’t got that test I would have had to self isolate for 14 days. There are these people being paid to stand in a car park [in Palmers Green] doing nothing while people can’t get test appointments.”
Steven also told Bambos Charalambous about his difficulty getting tested, prompting the Labour MP for Enfield Southgate to write a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock. “This is an utter shambles,” said Bambos.
“It is totally unacceptable that, nearly seven months into this pandemic, school children and parents are unable to get tests when they display symptoms.
“I’ve written to the secretary of state to demand urgent action on testing. We need to know who has coronavirus and who hasn’t. It’s the only way we can look after the sick and vulnerable and help get healthy residents back to school or work.”
A Department for Health spokesperson explained to the Dispatch that a loophole in the appointments system had been allowing people to use postcodes for areas where there was testing availability to access local sites using the QR codes there were issued. They claimed this issue had now been fixed and said: “If someone turns up with the wrong QR code for a site, they will be turned away from the site and advised to go to the correct site they booked on.”
Ten schools and five care homes in Enfield have reported recent coronavirus cases. Case numbers are rising, as they are across London, although hospital admissions remain far below their peak. North Middlesex University Hospital has not recorded a Covid-19 death since 2nd August.
For the latest advice from Enfield Council visit new.enfield.gov.uk/services/your-council/enfield-response-to-covid-19/