Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today pressed the Health Secretary to ensure that government websites gave accurate information on access to coronavirus testing for key workers. Supporting the concerns of isles constituents, Mr Carmichael highlighted confusing information on the government site which suggested that key workers would have to travel south as far as Peterhead in order to access testing.
Speaking in the House remotely, Mr Carmichael said:
“I’ve been receiving reports from category two key workers who have self-referred for a COVID case through the Gov.uk website, then at the end of it being directed to testing centres in Thurso, Elgin or even Peterhead, all of which would require a journey by ferry or plane in the first instance.
“There is local provision and there is the option of postal testing. Could we get the website sorted so that people get the information that they need, rather than thinking that in order to get a test they have to first get a plane or a ferry
Responding, the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP, said:
“It’s a very important question and I’ll look into the specifics of it to make sure that our island communities get the appropriate response in the website. He’ll appreciate that we put the testing website together at a remarkable pace and so in the first iteration weren’t able to make this sort of important nuance for Orkney and island communities, but I’ll take that away and look at it.
“He mentioned the answer to this in substance and the answer is to get the home testing kits working for Orkney [and Shetland] and I’m sure there’s a way through.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“I am glad that action will be taken to get this issue sorted. If key workers in the isles are not getting the testing that they need because they are getting inaccurate advice from official websites, that puts more people at risk and harms public confidence.
“Island communities could benefit greatly from more access to home testing kits for key workers. There were positive words from the Health Secretary on getting these working for the isles. This doesn't need to be complicated. It just needs to be fixed.”