This site is intended for health professionals only

Failure to include GPs in Covid testing has led to ineffective system, says study

hpv swab testing cervical cancer

Lack of GP input in Covid testing has led to a ‘faltering’ coronavirus testing programme, new research has shown. 

The study, from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex Business School, was a comparative analysis of the Covid testing response in six countries using a find, test, trace, isolate, support framework. 

The six countries studied were Germany, Ireland, Spain, South Africa, South Korea and the UK.

It found that in the UK, the lack of primary healthcare input has likely led to false negative results and void tests. 

The UK was also the only country of those studied to both provide tests without going through healthcare professionals and to rely so heavily on self-sample collection. 

In most of the studied countries, testing was undertaken in accredited laboratories with experience of clinical testing for infectious diseases. However, the UK has commissioned new laboratories which have bypassed accreditation and raised quality concerns, according to the authors. 

The study also noted the lack of systematic follow up for isolating and quarantining individuals, except for travellers returning to the country, which is against WHO advice. 

Lead author of the study, Professor Michael Hopkins, said: ‘There is a lack of proper supervision in the UK testing system. Tests are offered without suitable triage by medical experts. 

‘The UK is an outlier internationally because primary healthcare are not involved in coronavirus testing. Instead, the use of DIY self-swabbing by patients may lead to false negative tests and void tests where proper procedures are not followed. 

‘The result is that NHS Test and Trace is processing many more tests than other countries, yet many of these should not have been offered in the first place.’

Co-author Dr Joshua Moon said: ‘It is not right to point the finger of blame at the public for using NHS Test and Trace when their reaction is the logical step in trying to rule out Covid-19 so they can get back to work, school etc.

‘The Lighthouse labs are struggling to cope with demand because they are newly established, unaccredited and inexperienced compared to more well-established labs mainly used in other countries, and indeed the UK. 

‘These and other policy failures, such as the lack of monitoring isolation in those quarantining and limited material support for those isolating, means the UK currently lacks the tools it needs to effectively fight the coronavirus pandemic.’ 

It comes after NHS Test and Trace failed to ask nearly 30% of Covid contacts to isolate across a week in August

Complete relevant Covid-19 CPD modules on Pulse Learning by registering for free, or upgrade to a premium membership for full access at only £89 a year.


John Ashcroft 8 October, 2020 3:53 pm

The public have been let down by a system that essentially doesn’t believe in GPs, or primary care and believes that we can be replaced by 111, and now and an App.
The ineptitude of government is only matched by the silence of RCGP, and GPC who have failed to press the case for GPs to have a greater role, indeed central role, in the management of Covid.