Lord Bethell response to HDA on COVID-19 Testing (28 October 2020)

Dear HDA Members,

Please see Lord Bethell’s written response to the HDA’s letter expressing concern over increasing delays in the COVID-19 testing regime. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Innovation took this opportunity to thank the pharmaceutical distribution sector for its crucial role in ensuring that medicines reach patients, and the HDA for its ongoing work around COVID-19 and in raising important issues with the Department of Health and Social Care.

28 October 2020 

Dear Martin,  

I was sorry to read about the difficulty members companies of HDA have raised about their getting a test for Covid-19 (Coronavirus). I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate what I set out in my letter to you on 17 June, we appreciate the crucial role of pharmaceutical distribution in ensuring that medicines reach patients. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the HDA for their ongoing work around Covid-19 and in raising important issues with the Department.   
We have provided access to testing for millions of essential workers, where they are selfisolating because either they, or a member of their household is symptomatic, and are committed to ensuring all symptomatic essential workers get access to a test.  
Essential workers and members of their households, including those working in the medicines supply chain, can access priority testing at https://www.gov.uk/applycoronavirus-test-essential-workers, individuals using the portal can enter their details and will then receive a text or email the same day inviting them to either book an appointment at one of more than 70 drive through testing sites across the country, or receive a home testing kit.  Essential workers can order five test kits for themselves and other symptomatic members of their households. However, for households of more than five, the Contact Centre (119) can raise an order on their behalf. Essential workers remain those which were listed under guidance published earlier in the year, this includes those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines, and medical and personal protective equipment. This guidance can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested.  
We continue to expand testing capacity doubling the daily COVID-19 testing capacity to 500,000 by the end of October.  We are also increasing the number of testing sites to 500 by the end of October to help ensure everyone who needs a test can access one.  We are also aware of an issue with the booking portal that resulted in some users being directed to 

tests sites a long distance from them. This has now been resolved, and we have introduced a travel restriction to receive a test at 75 miles to ensure that this does not happen again.    
We are also taking actions to make it clear that only symptomatic people should be accessing tests in order to reduce inappropriate demand, including focused communications across the media and the 119 Call centre, and updating guidance at test sites.   
Thank you again for raising this important issue, the continued safe supply of medicines to patients remains a priority and we are grateful to all the efforts being made by your members. 
I hope you have found this response helpful. 
Lord Betthel