21 SEP 2020
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PHA working to ‘resolve’ booking issues after family told to go to Scotland for test

16 September 2020

The Public Health Agency (PHA) says it is working with the government to resolve the Covid online appointment system after local families were told to travel to Scotland for a test.

A number of families in Newry that tried to book a test online through the PHA website last week were informed that their nearest drive-through test site was in Stranraer – despite available slots at a testing site located in the car park of Newry Leisure Centre.

One family from Newry with a one-year-old baby with mild symptoms told the Reporter they were ‘shocked and confused’ when informed they had to travel 72 miles to Stranraer. 

The booking system for testing in Northern Ireland is part of a UK-wide model operated by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Dr Bríd Farrell, Assistant Director of Service Development, Safety and Quality at the PHA, said the health body is working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to resolve an ongoing issue with the site portal.

She said large numbers of people trying to book appointments has put huge pressure on the system.

“We are aware of some issues with the DHSC booking system which have resulted in people finding it hard to book tests, or being offered tests at sites outside Northern Ireland,” said Dr Farrell.

“We are working with DHSC to try to resolve these, but it’s important to note that pressure on testing is having an impact, which is why it is important that testing is used appropriately. 

“We also know some people had an experience with the booking system recently that meant there were offered tests at locations that didn’t have testing sites. These were generally for locations that previously had a mobile testing unit available. 

“This was because the DHSC portal for booking tests did not immediately update with the new locations. On these occasions we have worked with our DHSC colleagues to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“We continue to work with our colleagues in DHSC to ensure changes are made to the booking portal in a more timely manner to reflect the actual location of testing units, and have sought reassurances around this moving forward.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann has contacted Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock in relation to issues facing the National Covid-19 testing system.

Mr Swann said he is seeking action on a number of concerns, including the UK-wide online booking system that has been offering some people in the North tests in Scotland.

“To be clear, no one in Northern Ireland is expected to travel outside the jurisdiction for a test,” said the Health Minister. 

“These slots have been offered by the online system because it has not on occasions recognised local requirements. The same problem has been reported in Scotland.

“I want to see this glitch resolved as a priority. I have also emphasised the need to urgently build capacity for the National testing programme.”

To book a test online, visit www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test, complete the online form, and you’ll be offered a test at your nearest fixed or mobile testing unit. 

Booking can be made for morning test slots from 6pm the previous day.

Afternoon booking slots are released at 10am on the day of testing.

The booking portal directs you to the closest place by your postcode. 

For further information, log on to www.pha.site/cvtesting

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