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Lancashire councillor told to travel 300 miles to Kingussie for coronavirus test

By Gavin Musgrove

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Kingussie is a stunning place to visit in Autumn but a very long drive from Lancashire for just a coronavirus test.
Kingussie is a stunning place to visit in Autumn but a very long drive from Lancashire for just a coronavirus test.

A Lancashire councillor has been told to travel hundreds of miles to Kingussie for coronavirus tests as demand outstrips capacity in many parts of the UK.

Councillor Maureen Bateson, who represents Ewood ward in Blackburn, was advised to make the 295 miles journey to the Badenoch capital when she tried to book an online test.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has pledged that no-one would be instructed to drive more than 75 miles for a test.

When Councillor Bateson tried to book a test online several times to no avail on Tuesday and when she did finally secure a booking it was for Kingussie which is a regular venue for mobile testing unit visits.

She told the Lancashire Telegraph: “I didn’t even know where the place was, I’ve never heard of it.

“I was relying on somebody taking me to the test centre, I can hardly ask them to take me 300 miles to the Highlands of Scotland.”

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern (Labour) said the testing system had descended into a ‘shambles’.

She said: “Given the infection rate in Blackburn – and the additional capacity the government says that there is in the system – residents have rightly been urged to get tested in Blackburn, regardless of their situation.

“The test and tracing system is already on its knees. If the government keeps changing its mind about who should and should not get tested, the result will only be to confuse people further.”

Skye. Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes (SNP)
Skye. Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes (SNP)

Lochaber, Skye and Badenoch Kate Forbes MSP said she preferred Kingussie was put on the map for other reasons.

She said: “It does seem absurd that people are being sent from England to Kingussie.

“As Highlanders, we are used to travelling very far for certain services, whilst everybody else is used to accessing it on their doorstep.

"This isn’t the way, however, to put Kingussie on the map.

“I cannot speak for Matt Hancock and how the English testing system is or isn’t working. Certainly this examples raises significant questions about the UK testing system.

“My job is to try and ensure that Highland residents can access local testing in a quick and easy way.”

Ms Forbes comments come after criticism of delays over the return of coronavirus tests at a Grantown care home which has been blamed on laboratories being overwhelmed.

It took five days for the results to come back to Grandview House in Grantown by which time an asymptomatic staff member had already been working for two days at the home.

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