FRONTLINE workers are set to be tested for coronavirus in mobile units after out of town drive-through centres proved a flop.
Care workers and NHS staff complained test centres in the likes of Ikea car parks were too difficult to get to, leaving them sat empty.
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Ministers will now deploy 48 trucks to Covid-19 hotspots closer to homes in a bid to hit their target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
They will travel around the country to take swab samples with the support of the military before moving to another location.
General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said: “We think the innovative idea of pop-ups, rather like mobile libraries, would be a very useful way of going.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has expressed frustration that tens of thousands of tests a day are going unused and blamed a lack of demand.
The idea of pop-ups would be a very useful way of going
But NHS staff say managers with no clinical training have denied them access to checks despite being off sick with coronavirus symptoms.
They have also been forced to drive up to two hours for a test only to be turned around for not having the right paperwork or an appointment.
A source said: “The drive-through testing centres have been white elephants like the Millenium Dome – launched with great fanfare and at great expense but nobody wants to visit.
“We hope the mobile testing units will be more popular and get the testing figures up.”
The UK has capacity for more than 40,000 tests a day but conducted just 22,814 yesterday. There were 4,451 newly confirmed cases.
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Some NHS staff have to be off sick for five days before they qualify for a test and results can take a further five days to come back.
Anthony Johnson, from Nurses United UK, said: “It leaves us furious when we hear Hancock saying there are tests available and NHS staff are to blame for not coming forward.
“Many nurses are being denied a referral for a test by their Trust or find it incredibly difficult to get to the out of town testing centres.
“We would welcome mobile testing units and home checks.”
Surgeon Rebecca Lewis, from Doctors Association UK, said: “There continues to be concerns around the access to testing for staff who are unable or too unwell to drive to a testing centre, often a significant distance from their base.”
There continues to be concerns around the access to testing for staff
Karolina Gerlich, from the Care Workers Charity, said: “A lot of care workers are on minimum wage and do not get paid when off sick.
“They are living hand to mouth, struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table.
“Expecting them to have a car that they afford to fill with petrol and travel miles out of town to get tested is ridiculous.”
Health Minister Helen Whately yesterday described the gulf between capacity and actual testing as “really troubling”.
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The minister also admitted some NHS have been given dodgy coronavirus tests that could have wrongly given them the all clear.
She added: “Those who were tested with the test that we think is not up to scratch have been written to, to let them know and they will be offered another test.”
Saffron Cordery, from NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: “Trusts are working extremely hard to ramp up staff testing where necessary.”
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