Posted: Mon 18th May 2020

First Minister defends decision to scrap COVID-19 test booking portal in favour of UK wide one

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, May 18th, 2020

Mark Drakeford has defended the decision to scrap an online platform for key workers in Wales to book a coronavirus test wales and adopt a UK-wide system which was launched last month.

Ministers in Wales dismissed the UK Government’s portal because “it wasn’t capable of sending results back into the Welsh NHS.”

Welsh government had decided to work with Amazon in developing a testing portal, it was only rolled out in the south east of the country.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said at the weekend: “At the starting point we weren’t able to take proper advantage of the UK testing programme because we’d only have known if people had a test – the other information wasn’t coming back into our health and care system, so the value was really limited.”

Despite facing the same issues, Scotland and Northern Ireland adopted the system which meant key workers there and in England have been able to book COVID-19 tests.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales this morning, Mark Drakeford said:

“We didn’t go in with the English system originally was because it wasn’t capable of sending results back into the Welsh NHS.

You could have had a test as an individual citizen, and you would have known the result but your GP wouldn’t have known it, the Welsh NHS wouldn’t have known it and in effect the value of that test will be pretty low.

Now that data problem has been sorted out over the last couple of weeks with a lot of hard work, and it is possible to use the UK system.

Results (from tests) carried out on people in Wales will be fed directly back into GP records and into the NHS, therefore those tests are now very useful to us.”

Asked how much money had been spent setting up the now scrapped Welsh testing portal, Mr Drakeford said: 

“I don’t have a figure in front of me but the point is in a crisis of this sort, you have to prepare all the time for different eventualities.

Think of the money we have spent in field hospitals in Wales, we haven’t actually needed to use those field hospitals (including the one built in Deeside) to anything like the extent that we expected but it’s really important to prepare.”

Pressed again on cost, the First Minister said: “I’m sure the figure will be available I just don’t have it in front of me … you will be able to make inquiries through press office in the normal way.”

He added: “The general point is that you’ve got to prepare for different possibilities in the crisis and that’s what we’re doing with our portal.

If we hadn’t been able to sort out a UK portal we would definitely had had to use it and so it’s not wasted money, it’s making proper preparations to be able to provide the services the people in Wales need.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns MS, has welcomed what she’s described as another “Welsh Government u-turn, she said:

“This is great news for key workers in Wales as they will finally be treated the same as the rest of the frontline against the Covid-19 fight.

It is however a massive shame on the Welsh Government for the time and money wasted when they should have joined up with the UK Government on this right away.

For weeks testing in Wales has stagnated and the people that we owe our lives to are being let down.

The Welsh Government claim they want a four nation approach to defeat Covid but at each and every opportunity given to them they have to delay, waste time and money and then eventually decide that it is in the best interests of the people of Wales.

They urgently need to come to that realisation quicker and stop playing party politics with people’s lives.”

Link to the UK testing portal:

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