People in North Devon have been directed as far afield as Edinburgh, Surrey and Cardiff for coronavirus tests as the system struggles to cope with increased demand.
Dr Bruce Hughes, a GP partner at Fremington Medical Centre and chairman of Devon Local Medical Committee said his colleagues in North Devon, as with the rest of the county, had seen a marked rise in the number of patients with Covid-19-like symptoms .
Dr Hughes said: “Patients should continue to follow national guidance at www.nhs.uk around isolating and testing if they have suspected Covid.
“Greater Covid testing capacity is needed locally, like elsewhere, as some patients in North Devon are being signposted as far as Edinburgh in Scotland and Esher in Surrey for one, which is clearly inappropriate.”
There have been numerous accounts on social media of local people trying to book a test at the Barnstaple testing centre at Seven Brethren and instead being told by the government website that the nearest available centre is many miles away.
People can only book a test if they have coronavirus symptoms such as a temperature, a new continuous cough or loss of taste or smell.
Anyone who has symptoms and anyone they live with must self-isolate until the test result is known.
The government recently said because of limited testing capacity, priority would be given to NHS and care staff among others.
North Devon MP Selaine Saxby recently visited the Barnstaple testing station with county councillors John Mathews and Frank Biederman.
She said the centre had seen a fourfold increase in the number of people booking for tests in recent weeks and she had been contacted many constituents struggling to book in.
She said: “Nationally there has been a surge in people asking for tests. Unfortunately, many people have been applying for tests when not showing symptoms, but when they have been asked to self-isolate.
“To be clear you should only be asking for a test if you are showing symptoms or have a specific requirement to such as working in a healthcare setting. If you are showing symptoms, only you need the test, no other member of the household needs to ask for a test.”
If you or a member of your family needs a test, go to https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or call 119.
A North Devon Liberal Democrats spokesman said: “Test and Trace is, clearly, an utter shambles. We are appalled to see that a North Devon resident is sent on a five hour-plus trip to Wales.
“The Tory MP can take as many photos as she likes in a gazebo in the leisure centre car park. Where is this world beating testing system? With rising numbers we are really quite concerned at the lack of parity for North Devonians.
“We need to recognise the demographics of the population in North Devon and the risk of asymptomatic people passing on coronavirus. We absolutely must have equal access to tests.
“New measures will hit places like North Devon particularly hard, where tourism is a huge part of our local economy and employs so many people. It is imperative that as well as priority testing being secured for care homes and alike, we have a fully functioning testing facility to ensure those businesses and employees aren’t placed under further strain.”