NHSWI says no plans to replicate Shetland

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has praised NHS Shetland’s health team for setting up its own Covid-19 home testing system.

Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 12:14 pm
The council have closed some of the classes at Balivanich following staff members testing positive for Covid.

And she highlighted the fact that the process could be replicated in other island communities, including the Western Isles.

Mrs Grant has said there are large swathes of the Highlands and Islands where ordering a Covid-19 home testing kit was a useless exercise due to the postal delivery and collection system.

Prompted by constituents saying they could not receive a home test, she asked the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre to research a list of all areas where tests could not be delivered.

Rhoda Grant MSP

The independent research unearthed that these were not including postcodes on the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Argyll and Bute, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.

However, NHS Shetland’s Chief Executive, Michael Dickson, has revealed how his health authority set up its bespoke system and Mrs Grant is asking the Scottish Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, if other rural and remote areas could do the same.

“I was inspired by Shetland’s example, which managed to get around a major flaw in national planning for Covid testing,” explained Mrs Grant.

“I have now contacted Ms Freeman to ask if other areas could learn from Shetland’s example and set up their own individual delivery, pick-up and results systems so residents can receive quick and accurate test without leaving their homes.

“I was pleased to hear that Shetland’s home testing scheme had protected its on-island capacity for those who are more unwell or may require transfer to the mainland for treatment.”

Mr Dickson told Mrs Grant credit for the work has to go to the Covid testing team in NHS Shetland led by the Public Health Consultant Susan Laidlaw.

He said: “Any resident of Shetland makes contact using a web form which generates an email to the testing team. For those who can’t access the internet we have a dedicated phone line.

“After the request is received, contact is made to arrange for a dedicated driver to make a safe drop-off and a pick-up time for the self-test kits.

“If, for example, the call is received on a Monday morning the test would be dropped off and if possible picked up that afternoon.

“The test is then securely packaged up with the others that need processing and dispatched that night on the overnight ferry from Shetland which arrives into Aberdeen at 7am Tuesday, a courier collects it and transports it to a lab for processing and the health board and the patient usually receive the result on Wednesday.”

Mrs Grant explained that alarm bells rang for her when two constituents living just 50 or 60 miles from Inverness, in two different areas, discovered they could not get a home-testing kit.

A spokesperson for NHS Western Isles said: “In the Western Isles, individuals can go online or contact us by phone to request a ‘home test’ in the same way as in other parts of Scotland. If they meet the criteria for testing, they would be offered a test at their local Community Assessment Centre, or if they are unable to leave their house, they will be offered a home test, and a member of NHS staff will attend their home.

“NHS Western Isles has decided on this system (rather than home testing kits, where individuals take their own swabs and then the swabs are sent for testing) as it ensures that tests are turned around in the quickest time possible, swabs are taken by staff who are specifically trained to do this, and a quick turnaround means that contact tracing in a position to start as early as possible.”