Nicola Sturgeon has held what she described as “constructive” talks with UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock about how to resolve a delay in coronavirus testing results.
Problems are centred on the UK Government’s Lighthouse Lab network – which includes a facility in Glasgow – and the First Minister said “too many” tests for the virus are not being processed quickly enough.
With testing of care home staff going through these labs – and amid suggestions some workers are waiting between five and seven days for results – Ms Sturgeon revealed consideration is being given to the NHS handling of these.
She said: “The issue is just the constraints on the Lighthouse Laboratory slowing down the test results.
“We hope that will resolve itself but we will continue to monitor this.”
Ms Sturgeon spoke to Matt Hancock and Dido Harding, the head of the UK testing system, on Monday night “to seek assurances that Scotland will continue to get fair access to the UK-wide laboratory capacity”.
She sought the urgent talks after concerns a backlog in test processing capacity is causing problems accurately reporting the Scottish results.
The First Minister raised the issue again at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, saying: “I have a concern about the capacity constraints right now with the UK-wide system and for Scotland in recent days.
“This has not been an issue of access to testing slots at regional testing centres or mobile testing units but instead it has been one of access to sufficient Lighthouse Laboratory processing, and it is this that has led to a backlog in the system and longer turnaround times for tests than we we want to be the case.
“As this is a UK-wide system we are not able to resolve this on our own and the issues are impacted by demand elsewhere in the UK.”
Her comments came as she announced a total of 267 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland in the past 24 hours, up from 22,749 on Monday.
She also announced the death of another patient who first tested positive for Covid-19 within the past 28 days – taking the total under this measurement to 2,500.
The new positive cases represent 3.6% of newly tested individuals, up from 2.7% on Monday.
Of the new cases, 101 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 59 are in Lanarkshire, 53 in Lothian and 12 in Ayrshire and Arran.
Ms Sturgeon said the testing backlog means this total will likely include more results from over the past few days than normal.
The First Minister linked the backlog in testing to a surge in demand in England after pupils returned to school.
She said: “England, like Scotland did when our schools went back, has had a spike in demand as their schools went back and that is putting a lot of pressure on the system.
“In Scotland, that is not by and large about getting access to tests – there were reports yesterday of whole parts of England where you couldn’t book a test yesterday, that has not been the case in Scotland.”
While she stressed the UK Government has “overall oversight” for that part of the system, she added the Scottish Government is looking to “play a constructive part in finding a solution”.
To this end, she said: “One of the things we are looking at is taking our care home testing into the NHS lab strand to free up capacity and make sure we don’t have those delays in the care homes.”
She repeated her concerns that too many tests are “not being processed that quickly”, adding: “We hope that this is an improving situation but the turnaround times right now are not as I want them to be for everybody.
“Anything that is slowing down our testing system is a concern to me. We are paying very close attention to this.”