Calls for Scottish and UK Governments to hold virtual coronavirus testing summit amid claims "insufficient cooperation" is hampering efforts

The Scottish and UK Governments are being urged to hold an urgent "virtual summit" to agree a joint plan to increase coronavirus testing north of the border.

In an open letter brought together by think-tank Our Scottish Future, union leaders, nurses, and Care Home chiefs claim that "insufficient cooperation" between Holyrood and Westminster has so far hampered testing. 

They are also asking for preventative checks to be made available to all care workers, NHS staff and frontline workers without delay, something that would require a major increase in testing capacity.

The letter is also supported by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, founder of the the think-tank, and emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, Professor Hugh Pennington.

The Scottish Government has said it intends to move to a new “test, trace and isolate” strategy by the end of this month.

But a recent report by Our Scottish Future concluded the two layers of government need to be better connected if Scotland is to be successful in delivering regular, preventative testing.

Professor Jim Gallagher of Our Scottish Future said: “Scotland will only get ahead of Covid 19 if the Scottish and UK Governments work hand in hand, sharing expertise, information and resources. They should be applauded for where they have done so during this crisis. Now we need to see a great deal more.”

“Across Scotland, there’s growing evidence that a lack of coordination and cooperation is hampering efforts to test anything like enough people for this disease. The Scottish Government is still unable to guarantee frequent, routine testing for all care workers, as should happen, even while testing centres run by the UK Government are clearly running well below capacity.”

“That’s why Unions and care home workers are now calling on both Governments to get together to agree and publish how they intend to work together to deliver a workable test, trace and isolate plan – we now need both to step up to the plate.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is incorrect and potentially misleading to try to compare Scottish testing figures to UK-wide figures in the way being suggested.

“In Scotland testing is carried out both by NHS Scotland and as part of the UK Government’s drive-through and mobile testing facilities. Figures recently presented for Scotland, however, only include those tests done in NHS labs. Instead, the figure for the UK will include those drive-thru and mobile tests done in Scotland – the two are simply not comparable.

“We have rapidly ramped up testing capacity in Scotland, and today announced that everyone over the age of five with symptoms is eligible to be tested.

“The Scottish Government has from the outset played a full part in the four nations programme that has greatly expanded our testing capacity. This expansion has required extensive and ongoing co-operation between governments.

“We are taking steps to ensure we maximise use of our daily capacity for all eligible groups. There are a number of practical reasons why a gap may exist between demand and capacity, however, our Health Boards and NHS National Services are working hard to manage these issues and maximise daily capacity. Testing capacity under the UK programme in Scotland is promoted via a marketing campaign in collaboration with UK Government colleagues.”     

Responding to the open letter, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: "Test, trace and isolate will be key to beating Covid-19, but disappointingly, Scotland is still not in a position to implement this strategy.

"It cannot be successful without a co-operative approach to tackling coronavirus in Scotland, so I would urge both governments to get round the table and agree on a workable plan.

We have contacted the UK Government for comment. 

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