People using community-based coronavirus testing centers in England are waiting longer for their results, the figures show.
Only a third of the tests conducted in community sites returned to 24 hours a week by 9 September.
That’s down from two-thirds a week ago, the NHS Test and Trace said.
Access to community testing has had to be justified because laboratories are trying to keep up with demand, but this is the first evidence that the emerging evidence is taking longer to process.
There are three types of community testing centers – throughput, entry centers and mobile units that are located in hotspot areas.
All three sawmills grew in return times.
- Average return time for regional car centers increased from 20 to 27 hours, with 38% returned in 24 hours
- For local entry centers the average was 35 hours, with only one in five results submitted in 24 hours
- Mobile units have performed better with an average of 26 hours, from 19 weeks ago. About 38% of the results were given within 24 hours.
During the week, 360,000 tests were performed at these three facilities, up from about 320,000 a week ago.
The turnaround time release comes as a growing number of people complain that they can not enter the tests at all.
Booking locations at test sites as well as the availability of kits being posted in people’s homes are limited throughout the UK because laboratories are unable to keep up with demand.
This means that tests should be prioritized for high-risk areas, including care homes and areas where there are local outbreaks.
Experts are warning that the problems will limit the UK’s ability to contain the spread of the virus.
Hospital laboratories, which process tests for patients and NHS staff, are not affected by the problems. Nearly nine in 10 tests return within 24 hours.
The government said testing capacity will increase. Currently 375,000 tests per day can be processed – although only about 160,000 of them are in community testing laboratories.
Two new laboratories are expected to open soon, which would bring total capacity to 500,000 by the end of October, with two more planned for early 2021, the government said.
NHS Test and Trace Chief Baroness Dido Harding said: “We are working tirelessly to increase testing capacity so that anyone who needs a test can get one.
“I can not stress how important it is for only those with symptoms to book tests. The service is there for those who experience a high fever, a persistent new cough or loss or change in taste or smell.
“If you have no symptoms but think, or have been told by the NHS Test and Trace that you have been in contact with someone with the virus, please stay home but do not book a test,” she said.
“We need everyone to help make sure the tests are there for people with symptoms who need them.”
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