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Testing, testing 1,2,3

I know you shouldn’t talk about religion or politics in polite society but the national scandal over testing is so intensely political that it can’t be avoided.

The entire handling of the pandemic strikes at the heart of the Conservatives’ belief that we should invest in technology not people.

Which is why the string of Lighthouse laboratories and Nightingale Hospitals were started from scratch. Tender all this technical testing stuff out to private contractors who will be able to staff it and run it on a shoestring and you can get more bang for your buck.

We all know that the £240,000 it costs to train a medical student is not for nothing so it has come as no surprise to us that these places can’t get the staff. You can’t develop that level of skill and knowledge in one month.

The Nightingale hospital was closed down early as no consultants were willing to send anyone there because it was unsafe. When management tried to employ furloughed airline staff to run aspects of care and were told in no uncertain terms that they would need to undertake at least the basic care certificate, it didn’t happen.  

The same must be true of the Lighthouse laboratories. Private company staff do not have the years of expertise nor do they have an extra time and a third built into their salary like NHS staff.

Clockwatching does not cover the demand. Upscaling existing NHS laboratories would not see investors getting rich as stakeholders in pandemic start-ups either, just hard-working skilled staff being paid for their time, which is so ennui.  

I suspect the NHS will eventually be called upon to clean up the mess, like the army did after G4S botched their security contract at the Olympics. Not before the blame is placed on the public for wasting everyone’s time or journalists and medics ‘carping’.

The waste is eye-watering but more than that it is truly negligent. We deserve and demand much, much better than this.

Dr Charlotte Alexander is a GP in Surrey


Sam Macphie 25 September, 2020 11:23 pm

The huge waste is indeed eyewatering. Can we only hold them to account in elections?

Vardan Tadevosyan 26 September, 2020 7:23 pm

When everyone was expecting a surge of patients requiring ventilation, Nightingales were knee-jerk response. This lack of ITU capacity is just an example of the total lack of capacity in the NHS. We are among the worst performing countries (with similar economies) in almost all measurable outcomes- cancer deaths, childhood mortality, all cause mortality. We have been accepting this for decades.

John Graham Munro 27 September, 2020 11:03 pm


William Murray 28 September, 2020 10:36 pm

Then why did our hospital consultants send elderly patients home to unsafe homes and ill-equipped,understaffed and unsuitable( re looking after infected patients)nursing homes???
They were doing this before the pandemic so why are nursing homes more acceptable than “ state of the art” very expensive and similarly equipped temporary hospitals with ill-suited staff?
Double standards here,I think!!!