ALBA Health and Wellbeing spokesperson Neale Hanvey MP has challenged Nicola Sturgeon to give an urgent and honest appraisal of Covid testing capacity amidst evidence the system is close to collapse under a surge in cases.
The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP has been pressing both government about Coronavirus tests and surveillance for over a year claiming neither are taking the matter seriously enough.
However, that pressure has gained fresh impetus with evidence that Glasgow and Clyde have run into serious supply chain problems leading to multiple testing centre having to close their doors and others seeing long queues to for those waiting to get tested.
This concern was also amplified when usually cautious Scottish government advisor Prof. Devi Sridhar appeared to downplay the importance of testing on Twitter.
Mr Hanvey has written to his local NHS Fife Chief Executive seeking urgent reassurance on the matter, Mr Hanvey’s NHS career included senior clinical and management roles in cancer and bone marrow transplant services where infection and its effective control presents a daily risk to life.
Speaking about his concerns on testing Mr Hanvey said.
“I can’t stress enough how important surveillance is to the successful management of infection. Not being able to confirm a diagnosis by an objective measure such as PCR is frankly dangerous. It means those with ambiguous symptoms could be placed in danger or place others at risk. It also means we rapidly lose track of any useful epidemiological data and enter a world of guesswork; never a useful position when you are dealing with a potentially deadly situation.
“Ordinarily there would be a backup or continuity strategy but given the UK and Scottish Governments have failed to address the fundamental problems with the Innova Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests, it renders them utterly useless as a fall-back strategy. This is because they only identify 40% of infective cases of Covid and are not a definitive diagnostic test.
“I have personally spoken to an individual who has been turned away from Glasgow testing centres every day this week as capacity has been exhausted. This is totally a unacceptable. and dangerous.
“There is some hope in the domestic diagnostics sector were their LFDs have a much higher accuracy rate and are specifically designed for home use. However, they still do not replace PCR for diagnostic purposes so identifying and fixing supply chain issues is of the greatest urgency.
“Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf must come clean on this urgent matter of public health. If they are unable to support NHS staff with the equipment necessary for making safe diagnosis, then all other public health measures must be considered to suppress transmission of the virus urgently.
“Such measures would need to remain in place until PCR supplies or reliable alternatives can be established. If not, we risk being back at step one before we know it.”