Health Secretary passes the buck on loopholes in Covid home testing kits

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is “exasperated” by a reply from the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, on problems with people accessing the pick-up of Covid home testing kits.

Mrs Grant wrote to Ms Freeman after Skye resident and self-employed carpenter Daniel Barratt, from Ord, found no courier service came to pick up his home test, and he then had difficulty accessing grants to self-isolate.

Mr Barratt contacted Mrs Grant over the festive break detailing his conversations with the Covid home testing helpline and with those running Track and Trace and operating crisis funding. Since then another Skye constituent has contacted the MSP with a similar experience on a home testing kit not be picked up.

Ms Freeman says that NHS Highland is supporting courier collections for home test kits.

However, the Health Secretary added: “It appears that there may have been some initial problems with staff on the helpline not being aware of the correct procedure. This has been raised with DHSC as a training issue.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is the run by the UK Government and the majority of the tests administered in Scotland are through the UK Government’s testing network through its UK portal.

“What is exasperating about the Health Secretary’s reply is that, yes she has raised it with the UK Government department which is good news, but then we are left hanging,” said Mrs Grant.

“Surely, she must know if that training issue has been picked up and remedied? If not, then we really need to have some joined up thinking here.”

Mrs Grant is still waiting on a response from NHS Highland about the operation of its courier service which is supposed to fill the gaps left by the lack of Royal Mail priority boxes* in remote and rural areas of the Highlands.

“Maybe that will shed more light,” added Mrs Grant.

Just before Christmas Ms Freeman issued a letter to all MSPs heralding the fact that Scottish Government and UK Government officials were working closely together and had improved the home test kit provision for rural areas.

“The experience of constituents means I remain unconvinced that the Scottish and UK Governments are sorting out the home testing system to benefit those in more remote areas, many of whom would not be able to go to a testing centre many miles away.

“With the rapid spread of a new variant, testing and track and trace are vital to protect local communities.”

*Priority mail boxes – the Royal Mail pick up home testing tests for laboratory testing from these boxes in more urban areas. People can check the availability by using their postcode.