ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN: Lateral flow tests are a vital part of combating covid-19
Today I thought I would use my column to highlight some testing opportunities some may not be aware of. As I hope we all know, anyone with covid-19 symptoms can book a test, but there has been an expansion in the asymptomatic testing which I want to ensure you know about.
The first is that anyone who lives – or is in a support or childcare bubble - with school-aged children is eligible to receive up to two lateral flow tests per week. Also eligible are the households of school and college staff, in addition to school and college staff themselves and secondary and college pupils.
Businesses which employ staff who cannot work from home can also order free lateral flow tests for staff. You need a registered company number and to register by March 31. Further information is available on my website.
Finally, anyone else who does not have symptoms, can book to attend one of the four lateral flow testing hubs operated by the council in Berwick, Alnwick, Hexham and Ashington.
The aim of these tests is to ensure that those who encounter others through the course of their studies or work can access tests even if they have no symptoms. This is an important part of our work to ensure the hard work we have all put in to drive down case levels continues even as the vaccination programme ramps up as we are now coming into a time of increased supply.
New data shows these lateral flow tests, which give results in around 30 minutes, are at least 99.9% specific which means that the risk of false positives is extremely low – less than one in a thousand.
I have been reminded by several constituents that March is ovarian cancer awareness month. This is a disease that 90% of women survive if it is caught early, but two thirds are being diagnosed late. Symptoms include bloating and abdominal pain. Please see your GP if anything doesn’t feel quite right.
Finally, I was contacted by the Health Secretary last week to let me know that the Well Up North primary care network of GPs in Northumberland, have achieved one of the highest rates of vaccination in England despite the challenges our rural area presents. There are huge logistical challenges involved for our GP surgeries and they have risen to the challenge with determination and optimism. A huge thank you to all our GPs, nurses, healthcare assistants, admin teams and volunteers at the Well Up North GP practices, you are doing us all proud.