Published: 11:41, 03 September 2020
| Updated: 13:24, 03 September 2020
Patients seeking to book coronavirus tests say a "broken" government system has failed to test anything except their patience.
Many attempting to use the test centres in Kent have reportedly been offered appointments hundreds of miles away, in Wales and the Midlands, while others have reported seeing the Ebbsfleet test site "empty" in recent weeks.
Dave Saxton, who lives at Port Werburgh in Hoo, said he travelled to the Ebbsfleet site without an appointment on Wednesday, August 26, and was given a test - but system failures meant he couldn't get the result.
"My partner's daughter said there was a test centre at Ebbsfleet, so we went up there and said let's give it a try," said Mr Saxton, 69.
"The place was empty - they said have you got an appointment and we said no. They said just follow the route around and we finished up with a guy who was very polite and explained the testing process. He said when you get home register online straight away and you can get your results tomorrow."
But when Mr Saxton tried to register later he hit a brick wall. "You had to put a lot of information in and you finally get to the testing centre - but Ebbsfleet didn't come up.
"I rang 119 and told them I wanted to register. They put me on hold and I was there for 15 minutes until in the end I put the phone down."
A couple of days later he decided to try to register for a test again. "I went through the process but it didn't let me register at Ebbsfleet," said Mr Saxton. "It said 'you will go to Coventry' - I thought 'no I won't'.
"I rang 119 and they said that's the system. I said the nearest is Ebbsfleet and they said you can't go there it's full. I said I turned up two days ago and it was empty.
"I'm thinking they're telling us about these outbreaks of Covid-19 - but how do they know? I just find it broken.
"I thought people need to know about this. It doesn't give you much confidence. I'd hate to actually get the thing."
Jane Ewles, 50, from Meopham, said she had similar problems trying to book at the Ebbsfleet site.
"I think it's absolutely woeful. The government have had long enough to have a robust system in place."
"I've had Coventry, Ipswich and Birmingham," she said. "This morning I've managed to book Ashford which still isn't ideal.
"When I looked at the weekend it was showing appointments for Ebbsfleet and Maidstone, but it doesn't seem to let you do it more than 24 hours before you need the test. It's a broken system. I've managed to log in this morning and after several attempts Ashford came up. It's not as far as Coventry or Wales."
And she added: "We're going to Cyprus on Sunday and need a clear Covid test within 22 hours of flying.
"I think it's absolutely woeful. The government have had long enough to have a robust system in place.
"Numbers are creeping up again and they should be able to cope. But the numbers aren't as high as they were. Why can't we cope?"
A statement from The Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS Test and Trace is working – we are working to increase national testing capacity and hundreds of thousands of people are being tested every day.
“There is a high demand for tests and our laboratories continue to turn test results around as quickly as possible. To make sure we stay in control of this virus we are targeting our testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.
“We are expanding testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October – as well as bringing in new technology to process tests even faster.”