Cedars staff member offered Belfast for coronavirus test - despite living 500 metres from Linslade upper school's temporary testing base!

Arrangements and publicity for a coronavirus drive-through testing centre set up at Cedars Upper School have come under scrutiny as it emerges that a member of staff was offered Belfast as the nearest location for a test.

Monday, 11th May 2020, 3:10 pm
Updated Monday, 11th May 2020, 3:12 pm

Central Beds Council put forward the Linslade school as a base after being approached by health officials, with the centre manned by the military initially from May 2 to May 5.

However, it appears publicity over the facility was not all it could have been with the LBO not informed about the set-up, and, as well as the Belfast suggestion, one local councillor informed us that a Leighton resident had driven all the way to Biggleswade instead of using the centre on their doorstep.

Following our enquiries, Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has now confirmed to the LBO that further dates have been added - May 10-12, 14-16, 21-23 and 28-30.

Mobile testing at Cedars Upper
Mobile testing at Cedars Upper

Anyone eligible to be tested at the Cedars mobile site has to first arrange an appointment on the national booking website https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk.

Only certain categories of people are eligible for testing at this time, like NHS or other essential workers (and some household members), or people over 65 with coronavirus symptoms.

Steve Palmer, headteacher at Cedars, said: "We were contacted on Thursday evening (April 30) by Central Bedfordshire Council about the possibility of using our site as a testing centre from May 2 to 5.

"The Trust were more than happy to support this and we had a mobile testing unit on site for 4 days. It was manned by members of the military and I would like to thank our site team for supporting this so well.

"Unfortunately it seems publicity for the testing unit was not all that it could have been. A member of staff who lives less than 500 metres from the site applied for a test and was told the nearest test available was in Belfast."

Adrian Rogers, CEO of the Chiltern Learning Trust, which Cedars is part of, added: "Health officials contacted Central Beds local authority to see if one of their secondary school sites would make itself available to host a drive through testing centre.

"Cedars and Chiltern Learning Trust quickly offered to host this and do anything we can to support the increase in testing for the keyworkers in Bedfordshire. Thank you too to our site staff that reacted so quickly to support our front line services."

A spokesman for Central Beds Council said there were mobile testing units at Cedars, in Biggleswade (Biggleswade Hospital) and one at Borough Hall in Bedford.

He said: "These are temporary as they will move around the country. They are being operated by the Armed Forces, will travel around the UK to increase access for essential workers.

"These mobile units add to the facilities already operating at Steppingley, Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes.

"Booking for the mobile units is through the national allocation system, where the sites will appear as an option; pre-booking remains the preferred method of access."

Meawhile, recently released data from the Office of National Statistics shows that from March 1 to April 17 there were the following number of Covid-19 deaths: Marston Moretaine, Lidlington & Woburn (4), Toddington, Heath & Reach (3), Leighton Buzzard North & East (2), Linslade West (1), Leighton Buzzard South East (1), Leighton Buzzard South East (1), Linslade West (1), Eaton Bray, Whipsnade & Holywell (1), Leighton Buzzard Central (0), Linslade East (0).

Additionally, deaths in Central Bedfordshire care homes from April 10 to May 1 were 23.