• NHS sources say testing availability will be limited, despite the easing of testing restrictions 
  • “Digital infrastructure” is in place for increased testing, but availability is likely to be constrained “for some time”
  • Patient test results expected to be made available to GPs within weeks

‘Constrained’ coronavirus testing capacity means that some people may miss out, despite the easing of eligibility restrictions, an NHS chief has warned.

On Monday the government announced that everyone over the age of five with covid-19 symptoms is eligible for a test, but increased pressure on capacity will limit the number of people who can get one, “even though the digital infrastructure is there,” according to senior NHS sources.

A senior NHS leader involved in the testing project said: “The availability of tests is likely to be constraining for some time, so that doesn’t mean that everybody who goes online will get one. But it does mean that the digital infrastructure is there and it is possible now to go on and book a test.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said there are a limited number of tests each day, although there is currently availability across the country.

It comes amid ongoing questions over testing capacity and speed of turnaround, and the running of the programme.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson has said tests are not necessarily reaching the people who need them most.

Posting on Twitter, Mr Hopson said: “Trusts still frustrated by announcements expanding who can be tested whilst promises about priority for NHS patients and staff remain unfulfilled.

“The gap between the tone of public statements and the reality on the ground is still painfully wide and needs closing quickly.”

Coronavirus test results – which are currently sent directly to patients – are expected to be included in GP records within four weeks. This comes after GPs had raised concerns about being told which of their patients have had a coronavirus test and what the results are. 

The NHS source added: “We fully understand the need to get the patient test results back in to the GP IT records. I think we are three to three-and-a half-weeks away from it.

“It is more complicated than it might sound at the moment, the results go back to the patient although I do understand from the feedback that we get from GPs that is really difficult for GPs.”