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Concern over coronavirus antibody tests - but local testing passes 45,000 mark

PUBLISHED: 12:01 12 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:14 12 July 2020

The drive-through coronavirus testing facility at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Denise Bradley

The drive-through coronavirus testing facility at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Denise Bradley

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Health experts fear a government push on coronavirus antibody testing - which they are not convinced should be a priority - could divert healthcare staff from helping get crucial treatment for Norfolk patients.

Local GP and chair of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk and Waveney, Dr Anoop Dhesi. Picture: Norfolk and Wavey Clinical Commission GroupLocal GP and chair of the Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk and Waveney, Dr Anoop Dhesi. Picture: Norfolk and Wavey Clinical Commission Group

Dr Anoop Dhesi and Melanie Craig raised concerns at Norfolk County Council’s health and wellbeing meeting on Wednesday saying the test had very little value at this point in time.

Both spoke at the meeting about testing levels in Norfolk and Waveney, which has seen 45,000 people screened through the local testing system, which is seperate to the national online booking system.

More: Fewer than 15 new coronavirus cases a week in Norfolk

Both spoke at the meeting about testing levels in Norfolk and Waveney, which has seen 45,000 people screened through the local testing system, which is seperate to the national online booking system.

Dr Dhesi, a GP and the chair of NHS Norfolk and Waveney NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said among health professional’s fears was the lack in communication about test results as well as a push to carry out antibody testing.

Melanie Craig. Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership executive lead, Picture: Norfolk and Waveney CCGMelanie Craig. Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership executive lead, Picture: Norfolk and Waveney CCG

Dr Dhesi, told the meeting: “I must say it has been a concern of health professionals on how quickly that [antibody testing] has been pushed when actually the value of, and the meaning of positive antibodies, isn’t really established yet.”

More: Health watchdog chooses Norfolk for coronavirus report

He said test results from the national testing programme had not been automatically updated in patient records but was being rectified- which would allow GPs and health services to know what tests had been done.

Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership executive lead Melanie Craig added the push for antibody tests was a “drain” on the area’s phlebotomists who were needed to support patients waiting for procedures in hospitals.

She said: “I would also endorse what Anoop has said around antibody testing, we are very very concerned how this is being pushed out and very concerned that at the moment because it relies on phlebotomists it is a further drain on our phlebotomists staff who we really need to be supporting the recovery of people waiting for procedures in hospitals or in community settings rather than spending time with a test that has very limited value other than for national surveillance at this point in time.”

More: Drive-through flu jabs considered for Suffolk – but big shortfall in jabs predicted for the region

She praised the “superb” work carried out by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, pathology alliance and University of East Anglia to ensure the majority of testing had been carried out through local level.

She said: “It has really distinguished us from other areas, having this additional local testing.

“We have now tested around 45,000 people through that route.”

She added further problems remained around data not giving an overview around all the testing.

She said: “We do not have an overview of all the testing. This has been one of the flaws in the national approach to testing that is still being rectified.”


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