This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

The waiting game

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 100,000


Remember all that brouhaha around testing five days ago? It has been overshadowed by Professor Neil Ferguson breaking lockdown now. But, a long time ago (in terms of the Covid news cycle), it was a big deal that the Government sort of made its target of increasing capacity to 100,000 tests a day - though the report by HSJ that it changed its methodology and the subsequent drop in capacity since then has undermined this achievement.

This was all a distraction (which led to the BBC political editor saying they will be ‘watching the numbers carefully’ like it was an election or a cricket match).

Are bald numbers of tests really what we should have been striving for?

But I am still at a loss as to what the end goal is. I had thought that it would help healthcare workers get back to work. But NHS England confirmed that GPs shouldn’t go back to work if they or members of their households are symptomatic, even if the tests are negative. Which sounds pretty good advice to me.

So what is the point? Right now, numbers are too high for the test, trace isolate to be useful. Hopefully, we get numbers low enough for this strategy to work in the near future.

But if we were preparing for this, are bald numbers of tests really what we should have been striving for? Shouldn’t we have been focusing on accuracy, convenience and making sure that the processes were ready for when it will be useful?

Instead, we had this ridiculous race to the target that took focus away from a coherent strategy. Then again, the Government is becoming expert at distraction techniques as this pandemic continues.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at

Rate this article  (4.6 average user rating)

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Readers' comments (19)

  • ‘distraction techniques’ are reported to save political careers (for now).

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment


    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Compare UK response versus New Zealand's calm kind response...
    30 000 + versus 20 deaths.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Dr dee. no one lives in Nz. only 5mil and similar size to UK so isolation is mandatory 😅🤣😂

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Can someone please explain why GPs still don’t have access to tests for their patients. I’ve seen 2 elderly housebound patients and one middle aged lady who is immunosuppressed today, all of whom could have covid19 and I can’t get any of them tested. Surely that’s a story?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @ Penis McTaggart
    NZ were still organised and did it in a ‘textbook’ public health way. Perhaps because they’ve still got a public health system that has not been shat on in the name of austerity.
    If you’re wanting a bigger more condensed version to compare there is Germany. Damn those organised Germans with a female leader!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think the weather down here plays a role.... Australia has 23 Million, what barely a hundred deaths? Melbourne and Sydney have over 4 Million in each city.....

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Angus,

    What Penis is suggesting is that the comparatively good outcomes so far in NZ might not be down to their health system at all...

    And still banging the German AND gender drum? Are you a German shill?

    Russia is doing far better than Germany, are we now going to switch loyalties to Putin? There's apparently 'no covid' in North Korea, and only 4k deaths in China... The leaders there are male... Do you even reflect on what you're posting?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @Chrstopher Ho
    Would you seriously have a problem if I was banging the gender drum on behalf of women?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Angus, I don't have a problem with it, I'm just pointing out the ridiculousness of it. You're advocating female leadership, using German handling of the coronavirus situation, based on what measures exactly?

    My contention is the gender of the leader has no or little bearing on how 'good' the national decisions are. I'm not even willing to cede that German management of it is considered exceptionally 'good'.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say