DAUK in Medscape: 3 in 4 doctors can’t access testing

New research by the Doctors’ Association UK has been featured in Medscape. A new DAUK survey has highlighted that over three quarters of NHS doctors have been unable to get a test when needed, and that some have had to travel huge distances to get tested.

A member poll of more than 750 doctors by Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) found 77% who needed a test couldn’t get one. This resulted in doctors being away from work until they could arrange a test.

The problem, reported by the public, of being unable to find a test site nearby also affected doctors. A Gloucester GP had to self-isolate for 6 days before a slot was available nearly 200 miles away in Norwich.

Another doctor spoke of the only option being “an appointment in 90 minutes. It is a 419 mile journey to get there and takes 7 hours according to Google maps.”

Another doctor found a hospital that could do a test but “due to resources being stretched can only test one child so I just had to pick the child which was worse.”

DAUK President Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden commented: “It is a disgrace that NHS staff and patients are being forced to drive hundreds of miles to access a test whilst unwell if one is available to them at all. For frontline NHS staff preparing for a second wave this feels like Groundhog Day. The same problems we were having accessing testing in March appear to be repeating themselves. It seems that we are heading into a second peak having not learned lessons from the first. 

“We are already very short staffed within the NHS. We can’t afford for a single doctor to be self-isolating due to being unable to access a test. We are now calling on the Government to ensure that vulnerable patients and frontline NHS staff are prioritised for testing going forward.”

Next Steps

Commenting via the Science Media Centre, Professor Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “It seems that there are several bottlenecks in the testing procedures…This needs to be addressed urgently and if it is capacity then university labs should be more widely employed.”

The DAUK poll results come as ministers are considering rationing testing by prioritising NHS and social care.

At Prime Minister’s Questions Boris Johnson blamed problems on a  “colossal spike” in demand for tests but insisted the Government had “delivered on the most thorough testing regime anywhere in Europe”.

The Royal Bolton Hospital’s Medical Director Dr Francis Andrews took to social media to urge patients not to turn up at A&E to try to get a test.

“A&E is currently very busy, managing a high volume of patients who have arrived requesting a COVID19 test. Patients are requested not to turn up to the hospital,” the hospital tweeted.

ITV’s Robert Peston reported that the Government is to give the ‘rule of six’ measures 2 weeks to see if they make a difference to rising cases before introducing extra measures in England. However, closing schools is thought to be a last resort.

An unnamed leading scientific adviser is quoted: “Lockdown is the only thing that we know works, to be frank.”