Some people are waiting over a week to receive Covid test results because they have not filled in their forms clearly, a London public health official has said.
Hackney Council’s deputy director of public health, Chris Lovitt, explained to councillors on November 12 that long delays in the testing system are still occurring for a number of reasons.
For people who receive a test kit in the post which is then sent off to a lab, the average waiting time for a result is “48 to 72 hours”.
But this can be held up by difficulties with reading people’s handwriting, or if their contact details are not completed fully on forms provided with the test kits.
Mr Lovitt said: “Sometimes there is a delay and that’s where you’re getting the seven day plus waits. But those are outliers, the average seems to be 48 to 72 hours – not quite the 24-hour turnaround which has been the aspiration nationally.
“There is variability and sometimes people do get seven or 10 days. And that may well be because sometimes people don’t complete the form very well and we haven’t got the full contact details, and it’s difficult to read if they’ve done it by hand… their email address.”
It highlights potential situations where some residents who may not speak English as a first language, and might not have help from friends or family, can find it difficult to complete the forms.
Mr Lovitt said “glitches” can also cause delays, and referred to an incident in early October, where 16,000 positive cases were added to the national total following a data processing error by Public Health England.
Hackney Council, combined with the City of London Corporation, are among the local authorities in the capital that are doing their own contact tracing.
This is where council officers take over from NHS Test and Trace to try and speak to people who have been difficult to contact. This is in order to alert those hard-to-reach people that they have been exposed to someone with the virus, or have visited a location that’s had an outbreak.
Local council staff are seen as better placed to do this because councils have local knowledge that national public health teams do not.
Mr Lovitt’s comments were made during a City of London Corporation Local Outbreak Board meeting on November 12.
He said most people get their test result via a text. “But when they haven’t been able to make contact, that’s when it comes to the local [contact tracing] system. Sometimes it does take longer than is ideal,” he said.
Public Health England’s website shows that 640,000 tests were carried out on 11 November.
From the end of next week, a number of London hospitals will receive “rapid” Covid tests that give results within 15 minutes. They will be given as a priority to staff.