A member written to our MP :
Dear Mr Mayhew,
My son, who has highly complex needs, a severe learning disability and a diagnosis of autism developed a high fever on the evening of Tues 29 September.
Following govt guidance, I firstly tried to get a test online; unsuccessful, no tests available.
I then contacted the NHS119 service and requested to know how we could access a non invasive test given that I felt it would be impossible for my son to access to the swab tests in a home environment.
By this time, I also had developed a high temperature. My son needs 2:1 care much of the time. A truly frightening situation for us all.
I eventually spoke to a helpful GP from the NHS111 service who explained that non invasive tests were not yet available.
The next morning, I managed to get two home tests – no option for any other kind of supported testing. When they arrived, reading the instructions confirmed it would be absolutely impossible for my son to take the test, leaving one of the most vulnerable members of our society, identified as highly vulnerable to the virus, unable to be tested. This is nothing short of a travesty for the SEND community.
What happens to my son’s school bubble? He attends a complex needs school with other highly vulnerable young people; staff are in close contact due to the caring needs of students and my son has bespoke taxi transport to the setting. What if he were positive? All these people are still carrying on with their lives as usual in the school setting and local community.
I took my test, arranged for courier collection on Friday and am STILL waiting for the results today. So, in effect, 6 days after first developing symptoms, we still don’t know if it is a positive case of Coronavirus.
Boris Johnson keeps telling us that we have a “world beating system”. I would like it to be known that we, as a family, are at once frightened, isolated and without proper care and support from a system which should protect us and our society in order “to save lives, control the virus and prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.” The Prime Minister’s words.
Can you please ask Matt Hancock when he is going to get a proper, robust testing system in place that is fit for purpose and INCLUSIVE? And while he doesn’t have a functioning testing system, why are Gavin Williamson and the Prime Minister literally risking the lives of our children and young people, education staff, grandparents and wider communities by keeping schools open?
Mr Mayhew’s particularly unhelpful regurgitation of the government line (volume over content):
Thank you very much for your email.
I was so sorry to hear of the difficulty you have experienced in trying to get a coronavirus test for your son. Sadly, there have been a number of cases recently involving people across Norfolk who have been unable to book or have arrived at Covid test sites and been turned away or found that mobile units were not available on the day in question. As a father myself I fully appreciate how deeply frustrating and worrying this must be at an already incredibly difficult and stressful time for you and your family. With this in mind, I have spoken directly with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to ensure he is aware of the local situation. I have also spoken with the Chief Executive of our local Clinical Commissioning Group and whilst a short term booking problem has been fixed the underlying issue is the substantial increase in demand and the number of tests available, which is expected to remain high over the coming weeks.
We can fix this problem by increasing capacity and by ensuring those who need tests get them e.g. those who have coronavirus symptoms or those who have been advised to seek a test. If we do both these things we can work through the bulge. In addition, teachers will now, alongside NHS and care staff, be given priority for coronavirus tests.
With regards to non-invasive tests, we must now use every new innovation at our disposal to expand the use of testing to help build the mass testing capability that can help suppress the virus. A new £500 million funding package will be invested in next generation testing technology and increased testing capacity. This includes expanding existing, promising trials in Southampton and Hampshire, using a saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test. In addition, new types of tests which are able to detect COVID-19 and other winter viruses within 90 minutes are starting to come online. These tests will be made available to NHS hospitals, care homes and labs. The new rapid LamPORE test has the same sensitivity as the PCR swab test, and 450,000 will be available from the week of the 10th August, with the new test using DNA to detect the virus through existing modified technology to provide 5.8 million tests in the coming months.
It is vitally important that all children return to school. Despite the best efforts of teachers and parents throughout the country to provide high quality remote learning, this is no substitute for face to face teaching. The period of partial school closures will inevitably have led to many children falling behind and so, for our children’s welfare, their health and for their future schools have reopened.
To support the safe return to school, the Government’s updated Contain framework has been published. This framework sets out four tiers of intervention for schools and colleges when managing local outbreaks and implementing restrictions.
At Tier 1, schools will remain fully open to pupils full time, with face covering required in corridors and communal areas for pupils 11 years of age and older.
At Tier 2, secondary schools and colleges in the restricted area will be advised to use rotas to help break chains of transmission, with primary school staying open to all pupils.
Tiers 3 and 4 introduce remote learning full time for wider groups of pupils, with vulnerable children and children of critical workers continuing to attend.
Within the guidance it is made clear that local government, public health official and national Government will take all other possible measures before considering restricting attendance in education. If restrictions are required, remote education will be an essential component in the delivery of the school curriculum for some pupils. All schools are therefore expected to plan to ensure any pupils who need to be educated at home are given the support they need to master the curriculum and make good progress.
Jerome Mayhew MP