Ripon MP Julian Smith ‘confident’ Covid tests supply is improving after complaints system is in ‘chaos’

Skipton and Ripon's MP says the government is confident the supply of Covid tests is improving after complaints that the system is in "chaos" with health workers and residents left empty handed.

Monday, 10th January 2022, 4:42 pm
MP Julian Smith.

MP Julian Smith was told at a North Yorkshire County Council meeting on Friday that people have been struggling to secure lateral flow tests using the government's website and that the issue was putting a strain on key sectors including the NHS and care homes as they deal with staffing shortages.

Conservative councillor Stuart Martin, who represents the Ripon South division and is also chairman of the county council, told Mr Smith: "My daughter is a paramedic and some of her colleagues came to my door over the Christmas break as they were unable to access any testing kits whatsoever

"Luckily we had a couple of tests that we were able to give them, but this is a ridiculous situation."

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Conservative councillor Mike Chambers, who represents the Ripon North division, also described the testing system as being in "chaos".

Mr Smith said the government recognised there has been a surge in demand for tests and that while supply chains were improving, he would write to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid to highlight the issue.

He said: "The government is aware there was a big crunch point just after Christmas and they are now more confident on supply.

"This is an important issue as we need to get people confident to go to their workplaces, particularly health workers and others on the frontline."

At Friday's meeting there were also complaints from Independent Skipton councillor Andy Solloway who said there have been no tests available at the town's pharmacies and that staff at the local vaccination centre have been unable to get tested.

He also said the shortages had led to some residents launching abuse at pharmacy staff.

Councillor Solloway said: "People want to do the right thing and follow government guidance to do lateral flow tests, but there are no regular supplies in Skipton at all.

"This is a real problem in keeping the economy open and getting people back to work.

"I can't take a lateral flow test to go and visit my dad who is having cancer treatment at the moment. This is just one story in Skipton.

"It is very frustrating and must be frustrating for the government as well."

It comes as the government has said the current Plan B Covid restrictions will remain in place for now as infections continue to climb to record levels and hospitalisations rise.

It has also been announced that people who test positive with a lateral flow test do not need a follow-up PCR test if they do not have symptoms. These changes come into force from tomorrow, 11 January.

Mr Smith told Friday's meeting that he believed the Plan B rules - which include working from home, face coverings on public transport and in public places, and NHS Covid passes - were "relatively soft" and that the decision to stick with them was "proportionate".

He said: "It feels as if that judgement has been correct, but obviously there are still very strong crosswinds on parts of the NHS.

"We are not out of the woods yet and we all need to do whatever we can to encourage the following of the rules."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter