Northumberland health chiefs warn Covid testing may be scaled back without more Government cash

Patient samples are transferred by scientists into plates before entering the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) process for Covid-19 testing at the Glasgow Lighthouse coronavirus testing facility.

Health chiefs in Northumberland have warned they could be forced to scale back Covid testing if they can't secure more government cash.

Concerns have been raised over how long the existing testing regime in Northumberland can be maintained - just as the rise of the Omicron variant makes it more important than ever.

At the county council's Health and Wellbeing Board, Gill O'Neill, interim deputy director of public health said: “There is a risk if we don't receive additional funding, that the PCR capacity may have to be reduced for us and that's not something that we're keen to have happen to us with the current situation."

Northumberland currently has the highest rate of PCR testing in the North East, with about half taking place at one of the four designated Local Testing Sites (LTS) these being:

  • Berwick

  • Ashington

  • Blyth

  • Hexham

  • As well as lateral flow devices on offer at a range of locations.

This comes as questions are mounting over the accessibility of rapid result Lateral Flow Device tests (LFDs) in the country.

The new rules requiring daily testing for close contacts prompted a surge in test requests, resulting in the official government website running out of lateral flow tests.

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But before this, requirements to download a "collect code" before collecting LFDs from pharmacies are being considered to be putting some off from it.

NCC director of public health Liz Morgan said: "Clearly it's not a local authority policy, but the national policy to require people to get a code before they can collect their lateral flow test is, in effect, putting a barrier in the way.

"Part of our LFD testing strategy is to make sure we target those communities that might find accessing testing quite tricky."