Covid-19 home-testing kits being used in some parts of the Highlands and islands could be “useless” because they take too long to get to the laboratory.
MSP Rhoda Grant yesterday raised the case of a constituent whose elderly neighbour took a Covid-19 test.
Despite contacting NHS Highland and a local testing centre, it was not picked up until 72 hours after it had been completed. She said this made it highly unlikely to provide an accurate result.
The Labour politician said: “This is yet another example of our region being at a disadvantage and of the centralisation of so many services. We need more support for the Highlands and islands and it should not be left to struggle to access testing facilities.”
Ms Freeman said in her letter: “I am aware that in some remote areas, home testing kits are not available because of difficulties with the delivery of the kits in a timely manner.
“The key challenge for reaching certain areas is the high potential for sample degradation during longer courier timescales from Royal Mail pick-ups to arriving at the laboratory.”
She said there is a UK Government regional testing centre in Inverness and mobile testing units in Oban, Dornoch, Fort William, Ullapool, Kingussie, Thurso, Portree, Campbelltown and Lochgilphead with online bookings taken until the end of August.
Ms Freeman added that NHS Highland and the UK Government have been asked to make the necessary improvements to their processes.
She said: “I am very clear that we must ensure that all individuals in Highland who are symptomatic can access tests quickly and without difficulty.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are aware that some people living in rural and island postcodes in Scotland are having issues getting access to a home testing kit through the UK Government’s testing portal. We have raised this issue directly with the UK Government.
“We are working with NHS Highland colleagues and any other affected health boards to support access to testing for remote and rural locations.
“The Scottish Ambulance Service will take over the running of mobile testing units from August 31 and will continue running the service, which is regularly reviewed to ensure it can help address demand.”