We are aware of the continuing pressures on the national NHS testing programme which has, at times, impacted residents in South Tyneside accessing tests in a timely way.
Not only is this important for residents, but it is also crucial for us to understand the levels of coronavirus across our community to support a targeted response. As an “Area of Enhanced Support”, we have been advised by Government that testing capacity is being prioritised in South Tyneside.
In terms of what we are doing locally:
- We have had a Mobile Testing Unit deployed across South Tyneside for the past two weeks and we understand this support will continue. The Mobile Testing Unit will be in place this week at the car parks of Littlehaven Beach (22, 25 and 27 September) and Temple Park Leisure Centre (23, 24 and 26 September). Tests must be pre-booked here: NHS: Get a test to check if you have coronavirus
- Mobile Testing Units are, however, only designed to be a short-term response option and they may be moved elsewhere in the region in line with demand. As such, we have had a local testing site approved by the Department of Health and Social Care to be based in either Hebburn or Jarrow. These sites offer longer term capacity for testing. Unlike Mobile Testing Units, they are aimed at being accessible on foot to support people who do not have access to private transport, and they will offer walk-in appointments for those who may have difficulties in accessing the testing booking portal online or over the phone. These sites do, however, have a lead-in time of approximately four weeks so we will continue to request a Mobile Testing Unit to support testing capacity in South Tyneside.
- Building on strong partnerships with NHS colleagues in South Tyneside we are also exploring how NHS ‘Pillar 1’ testing (swab testing in labs and hospitals for those with a clinical need, and health and care workers) may be able to provide some additional capacity to address any additional testing capacity needs.
- A ‘Lighthouse Lab’ facility serving the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber is expected to launch in December. We are advised the facility will provide an integrated system for increased testing and tracing – which will include a new lab based in Gateshead and a specialist innovation lab at the Helix site in Newcastle. We understand that the facility will deliver high-volume, rapid turnaround tests, with the capacity to process up to 80,000 tests a day if needed.
NHS Test and Trace
The NHS Covid-19 app is scheduled to launch this Thursday (24 September). The app allows individuals to report symptoms, order a coronavirus test, check into venues by scanning a special code and helps the NHS trace individuals who may have coronavirus. We will be supporting local businesses to prepare for the launch of the app, including helping them create their own unique posters, as well as implementing codes in all relevant Council buildings for visitors to use to ‘check-in’. More information regarding the NHS Covid-19 app will be published later this week.