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Council leaders write to Secretary of State for national funding to be made available for local coronavirus testing in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire

Published: Tuesday, 29th September 2020

Council leaders have written to Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to urge for more local testing solutions to be unlocked to stop the spread of coronavirus in Stoke-on-T

The letter from cllr Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and cllr Alan White, leader of Staffordshire County Council raises concerns about access to testing capacity in the city and county. It also outlines how efforts to help residents are being hampered by a lack of national coronavirus laboratory capacity.

It goes on to set out how through joint partnership working between Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Staffordshire County Council and health partners, a local solution to Test and Trace was put in place within 24 hours which has given nearly 1,800 residents access to tests than they would have had.

This local testing has meant hundreds of people have been able to get back to work and school faster. It has also ensured the public protection of residents against coronavirus with positive cases identified earlier than they would have been through the national testing system. 

Cllr Abi Brown said: “Residents are being affected every day when they are not able to be tested for this horrendous virus. We have the ability to unlock testing capacity locally, based on detailed plans and worked-up costs that have been with the Department and Public Health England for a couple of months now. We can move at pace if national funding is made available.

On contact tracing, our councils have implemented a local solution to support Test and Trace, following up all cases that NHS Test and Trace has failed to reach quickly. We are proactively contacting all cases, and this has helped us identify many more sources of infection and workplace exposures that we can then follow up with local outbreak control measures in a timely manner. This explains in part our ability to hold the case rate relatively stable over the last three to four weeks, and not see the significant surge in cases experienced in other geographies. It is why Stoke-on-Trent is no longer an ‘area of concern’. However, we now need the urgent distribution and fair allocation of financial resources to allow us to sustain and expand this effort for local people.”

Cllr Alan White said: “We believe that the success in controlling and ultimately defeating this virus is completely dependent on effective national: local partnership and that some of the best solutions will be designed locally.

“We need the availability of tests across our area to be consistent, adequate and appropriate. We ask the Government to trust us, to support our local solutions and let us meet the urgent needs of our residents.”

The letter comes following five Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire MPs writing to Government at the request of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council to seek urgent support to contact tracing and testing more effectively but as at today (Tuesday) still hadn’t had a response.