'Several thousand' tests backlog figures a mystery as testing situation still a concern for Nicola Sturgeon

The number of tests affected by the backlog have not been released.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 5:20 pm
The testing backlog is still a concern for Nicola Sturgeon

The scale of the testing backlog problem in the UK and Scotland remains a concern for Nicola Sturgeon as “several thousand” tests are affected by the issue.

The exact figure of how many tests have been delayed by the backlog remains a mystery as both the Scottish Government and the UK department of health refuse to publish the figures.

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The First Minister said it was not a case of refusing to give a figure, but that the statistics were “changing all the time” but she indicated the overall number of tests affected had dropped but “several thousand” were still affected with the situation being monitored closely.

When asked whether she was embarrassed by the fact the country is still facing testing issues six months into a global pandemic, the First Minister said she is doing her “level best” to fix the issues.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, she said: "I would rather we weren’t having problems with testing and I am doing my level best in trying to fix them, I can’t do that on my own with this part of testing because it is a UK-wide network.

"I’m not saying this as an attempt to pass the buck to them, I’m trying to be part of it, that’s why we are looking to do more through the NHS to free up capacity in that.

"I’m trying to constructively reach a resolution to this because I do want to make sure we have now and as we go through the winter a testing system both in terms of the ability to take tests from people and the ability to process those tests timeously that we have one that is robust and able to take the pressure on it.”

Ms Sturgeon added she still has concerns about the amount of time being taken to process coronavirus tests at UK Government laboratories.

She said: “Although we continue to have some concerns about the time being taken to process tests in the Lighthouse laboratories, there are no signs at this stage of people in Scotland facing widespread difficulties in booking a test.”

She added she is considering if the regular testing of care home staff – which is currently dealt with by the Lighthouse laboratory system – could be taken over by the NHS in some areas to free up capacity.

Iain Stewart, a UK Government minister within the Scotland office, stressed the UK Government, which he said is responsible for the majority of testing in Scotland, is acting on the problems.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he said the Government is “increasing the overall capacity” in the testing system.

He insisted it is right that the UK Government had acted to prioritise access for testing in England to key workers and those in care homes.

Asked what should happen in Scotland, Mr Stewart said: “That is for the Scottish Government to determine.

“What we are doing as a UK Government is increasing enormously the availability of testing in Scotland.

“I am glad that the Scottish Government are increasing their side of testing but the majority of testing in Scotland is run by UK bodies, and we are expanding that.”

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