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GPs’ patients unable to access Covid-19 test results due to lack of online access


By Awil Mohamoud and Eleanor Philpotts
15 July 2020

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People who do not have an email address or mobile phone are finding they are unable to receive Covid-19 test results.

The results of Covid-19 tests ordered from the NHS by the public online or over the phone will only be sent either to an email address or a person’s mobile phone via an SMS text message.

GPs and charities have said older patients have in some cases not been able to get hold of test results because they do not own mobile phones or have an email account set up.

While it is possible for patients to use a mobile phone number or email account of a friend or relative to receive the results, GPs have said for some patients this will still not be an option.

In some cases this means GPs are considering using the surgery’s email address for receiving the patient’s results.

But charities say the Government should instead be ensuring patients can receive their test results via a phone call from the NHS’s testing system.

The Government’s system for ordering tests previously only allowed people to request them online,but was changed to allow people to alternatively call 119 if they didn’t have access to the internet.

Massive oversight’

Charity Age UK said while it was reassuring that the system had been changed to allow people to order tests more easily, it was a ‘massive oversight’ that not everyone could then receive the results.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘Older people are at higher risk from coronavirus and it is therefore essential that they can receive a test right away if they develop symptoms.

‘Yet we are continuing to hear that older people are unable to access their test results unless they have an email address or are able to text. As the Government’s strategy is based on effective testing, this needs to be resolved fast.’

The charity added: ‘For some older people getting a text or email isn’t a problem, but we need to ensure that these aren’t the only options and that phone calls are offered to people who don’t have a mobile or email address.’

‘Real disadvantage’

Dr Yvette Rean is one of the GPs also dealing with the issue. Dr Rean, who practises in Kent, told Healthcare Leader: ‘We have many patients for whom [gaining a test in line with this criteria] would be nigh on impossible. In fact, they’ve told us that. They can barely give us their own home number.’

She added: ‘My elderly patient couldn’t provide an email or mobile number, so couldn’t get the test done. We may have to give them the surgery mobile number or email address to use.’

‘Quite often, elderly patients live with younger relatives and even they don’t use the internet or have a mobile. Occasionally, carers come to the rescue.’

Similarly, North Yorkshire GP Dr Kate Harvie said: ‘The lack of online access is a real disadvantage to poor or elderly people.

‘My patient phoned on behalf of her husband and was told an email address was needed. I’d advised her to phone as he had symptoms that could have been Covid. She phoned back with her son’s email address.’

From last week, shielding people, considered the most clinically vulnerable to the virus, have been able to relax their day-to-day routines, such as by meeting groups of six outdoors while adhering to social distancing measures.

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