3rd Mar, 2021

Doctors hit out at use of lateral flow tests in Warwickshire

Laura Kearns 14th Jan, 2021

DOCTORS have hit out at the use of lateral flow tests in Warwickshire.

A number of Warwickshire GPs say there is a ‘major problem’ with the accuracy of the tests, which are carried out in Leamington, Stratford and Rugby.

The tests are for those without symptoms, but a group of doctors and representatives from South Warwickshire Keep Our NHS Public say they fail to identify more than half the people who have the virus and incorrectly identify people as positive when they do not have the illness.

A group spokeswoman said: “After having these tests many people will be falsely reassured they are negative and may unwittingly pass the infection on to their contacts while others will be asked to self-isolate unnecessarily.

“Furthermore, people who test positive are still expected to have a second test at a different centre before they can be confident that they are infectious.

“Lateral flow tests may have a part to play in controlling transmission in particular workplaces and health or social care services but only if tests are repeated at least twice a week – but in our view these one off tests should not be used for mass testing of the general population.”

In Warwickshire residents can only access the tests if they are booked online.

But the group believes those most at risk of covid 19 are the least likely to come forward for the tests.

The spokeswoman added: “We also believe the resources spent on mass testing would be much better spent on providing walk-in centres for people who have symptoms, improving the effectiveness of contact tracing and ensuring infected households are given the support they need to self-isolate.

“We urge those responsible for managing the pandemic in Warwickshire to stop the continued roll out of mass testing across our county and to focus their efforts on those interventions which are most likely to interrupt community transmission and to protect local people from this terrible disease.”

But Warwickshire director of public health Dr Shade Agboola says the device does help protect communities.

She told the Observer: “Lateral flow devices are one of many tools being used to help us to detect and fight covid 19.

“Other measures include PCR testing for those with covid symptoms, public health guidance and support for businesses, care homes and schools, regular communications with communities and target groups, the roll-out of vaccinations and work through our key partnerships with health, police, district and borough council’s and voluntary organisations to engage, educate and where necessary enforce where national guidelines are not adhered to.

“We know lateral flow tests alone aren’t a silver bullet for stopping the spread of the virus, but we are confident that they can detect presence of the virus in asymptomatic individuals in a rapid and timely manner. If used in combination with other measures such as wearing face coverings, washing hands regularly and social distancing, they are another tool to help to keep communities safer.

“I would like to make it clear that anyone receiving a positive test is required to then have a PCR test to confirm the initial results. Equally anyone receiving a negative test is not given the green light to change behaviours, they absolutely still need to continue to follow the guidelines of hands, face, space.”

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