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Coronavirus testing ‘debacle’ has improved, says hospital chief executive

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT). Picture: EAST SUFFOLK AND NORTH ESSEX NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT). Picture: EAST SUFFOLK AND NORTH ESSEX NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

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A “debacle” over testing suspected Covid-19 patients has greatly improved in recent weeks, Ipswich and Colchester hospitals’ chief executive Nick Hulme has said.

Nick Hulme has taken on a wider role across the East of England helping to co-ordinate testing people for suspected coronavirus. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELLNick Hulme has taken on a wider role across the East of England helping to co-ordinate testing people for suspected coronavirus. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

Mr Hulme had previously raised concerns over the government’s target to test 100,000 people a day, calling the situation a “debacle” during May’s board meeting for the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) - which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals.

At the time, he said the ambitious goal set by prime minister Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock was “a prime example of where sometimes a target that’s set for the optics of political reasons hasn’t necessarily been thought through in terms of its impact in terms of clinical care”.

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However, he said that since then things had improved greatly - and that a programme of large scale testing is key to beating the virus.

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals Pictures: ARCHANTNick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Ipswich and Colchester hospitals Pictures: ARCHANT

Without mass testing, Mr Hulme said the virus could be “left to run wild” - but added that he is now confident that the system to swab test thousands of people a day is up to the task.

Mr Hulme said that, at first: “We were trying to ramp up testing extremely quickly and it did feel a little chaotic.

“However, testing patients is on a robust platform.

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“It’s not without its challenges - we’ve stepped up tests quickly, and we’ve had to.

“Testing and tracing contacts of people who have tested positive and then containing it within communities is going to be the next step in our fight against the virus.”

MORE: Sign up for all the latest coronavirus news in Suffolk here

Mr Hulme believes testing people with suspected Covid-19 and tracing those they have come into contact is the “greatest lever to get out of lockdown”.

A drive-through testing facility for coronavirus opened at the Copdock Interchange in Ipswich in April, with more than 3,000 people tested so far.

Mobile testing units which regularly move around the county at multiple sites have also been set up, with plans for pop-up sites in Bury St Edmunds, Eye, Haverhill, Leiston, Lowestoft and Newmarket in the near future.

The government announced this week that people can request a test for anyone over the age of five who is showing coronavirus symptoms.

People can call 119 to book a test.


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