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Health boss criticises ‘stupid’ track and trace system after man sent more than 40 miles for test

PUBLISHED: 17:42 24 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:42 24 August 2020

NHS Track and Trace has come under fire after it was revealed that people were being sent more than 100 miles to get a Covid-19 test. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

NHS Track and Trace has come under fire after it was revealed that people were being sent more than 100 miles to get a Covid-19 test. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A Suffolk health boss has hit out at the “stupid” NHS Track and Trace system after it was revealed a man from Felixstowe had to drive to Clacton to get a Covid-19 test.

Health Watch Suffolk CEO Andy Yacoub. Picture GREGG BROWNHealth Watch Suffolk CEO Andy Yacoub. Picture GREGG BROWN

Andy Yacoub, CEO of Health Watch Suffolk, called for improvements to be made to the scheme, which has reportedly directed people to test centres more than 100 miles away, due to a flaw in its online booking system.

A person from Felixstowe was even sent to Clacton to be swabbed, driving past the testing centre in Ipswich on his way to Essex.

Mr Yacoub said: “The system needs to be improved because this is a stupid situation.

“If you are living within a certain test centre and you are offered another one which is further away then you need to have a way of bringing that to notice. Whatever the algorithm is that is being used is obviously failing to take into consideration transport, travel times and geography.”

The Suffolk health leader also said he would contact Public Health to enquire about the issue.

He added: “I will bring it to the notice of the director of public health Suffolk and ask whether or not they are aware of a number of these situations and ask what they will do to address it.”

One person from Felixstowe, who highlighted the issue, was advised to travel for an hour to Clacton, rather than use the Ipswich testing centre.

The government coronavirus test booking website said the Essex town is just 13.8 miles away from Felixstowe.

However, the journey is 40 miles by car, taking almost an hour to get from one place to another.

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The person from Felixstowe who tried to book a test online said: “If I was travelling by boat, then Clacton would be my nearest test centre.

“I tried to book online but was only given the option of going to Clacton so I called 119. The operator got the same results.

“They told me that it is not just my region - some people in Newcastle are being directed to test centres in Scotland instead of ones in the city.

“I have symptoms so am going to get them checked out. But I can imagine that others would be put off by the prospect of two hours in the car - while driving past their actual nearest centre.”

The Labour Party said problems with the booking system should be resolved as a “matter of urgency”.


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