Folkestone & Hythe Constituency Labour Party is deeply concerned by mounting evidence of systemic failure in the crucial systems for Covid-19 testing.
Many local families and those working in our key public services are reporting a critical lack of access to testing. This is of course vital, as the government has explained, to the safety of our community and to the prospects of economic recovery.
We recognise the concerns of our members and our local community in reaction to the shocking situation in which online booking systems for Covid-19 testing are indicating that only available appointments are at centres requiring a one way journey of up to 500 miles.
This situation is unacceptable. It will clearly impact not only upon the well-being and safety of families, but also places many at risk, including those who have given above and beyond the call of duty in sectors such as health workers, care workers, social care staff, teachers and school staff.
It will also place additional pressure upon our transport workers, those in the hospitality sector and others who have strained every sinew to meet the needs of the country in recent months.
We call upon our local Conservative MP, Damian Collins, to provide an urgent statement explaining how he will be seeking immediate improvements and reporting back to his constituents within the next seven days.
Folkestone and Hythe Constituency Labour Party will continue to monitor the situation.
To contact Damian Collins MP (Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe) on this matter, please write to him at:
4 West Cliff Gardens
Phone: 01303 253524
A concerned local teacher writes:
“On Friday I had a sore throat – thinking nothing of it, and knowing that my school would expect me in since this isn’t one of the ‘three main symptoms’ I went to work as usual. By the end of the day, however, the sore throat had migrated to my chest and I was struggling to get enough air. Saturday morning I woke up coughing, my chest heavy and painful.
I followed the advice and entered my symptoms online and was called within the hour by a doctor on the 111 service who advised that I would have to self isolate and get a test. At 8 am I filled in the form only to find there were no postal, walk in, or drive through tests in my area. I had been warned that I would most likely have to keep checking back as this would change through the day. So I spent the day checking for updates.
Partway through the day, the government site suddenly started denying the existence of my postcode. I called the helpline and ended up on the phone waiting for over an hour, before being told that there hadn’t been any new appointments released yet but at least my postcode was being recognised again.
I was given a glimmer of hope when told to check back between 6.30 and 8.30pm. When I did so however, there was nothing until 8.30 when suddenly some appointments (the nearest in Margate, around 20 miles away) came up. I selected Margate, and went through several more questions to get to booking the time slot when the page suddenly went back to the beginning. Had I managed to get an appointment? I tried three more times in the space of a minute but the same kept happening. I checked my e-mail and as I feared, there was no confirmation.
Confused and exhausted I went to bed after an entire day spent trying to get an appointment for a test. This morning, day two of having symptoms I got up at 7 am to try again and got nothing. Wondering whether the booking had gone through I dialled the helpline again and explained the situation. The helpful woman at the other end confirmed that unless I received a confirmation e-mail, it had not gone through. She told me that she had spoken to several people already who had described the same problem and tried again for me; but found no appointments or postal tests in my area. She recounted the story of some who had actually received their e-mails only to drive miles for the test and be sent back because the e-mails did not contain the necessary QR codes.
I was relieved I hadn’t decided to try to drive to Margate, especially since I would be playing a dangerous game what with the coughing and difficulty breathing and all.
I am reminded that I work in a profession that here in the UK often has to put its own health and wellbeing on the backbench. I know that were Covid-19 not a concern, even though I feel terrible and cannot properly speak, I would most likely push myself to go back in to work Monday morning whether I’m recovered or not. Many of my colleagues in the UK would likely do the same. Attendance is everything for pupils and we as teachers model that; few of us are comfortable enough to take a sick day when it is needed, because our jobs involve the care of young people who need our support and guidance, and there simply aren’t enough teachers to go around if someone gets sick. I am wracked by guilt knowing my year 11 students who were just starting to get settled again, are once more about to have things turned upside down, and the pressure will be on when I return, to get them caught up again.”