‘Shambles’ at new coronavirus testing facility in Rainham

People queueing outside the new coronavirus testing facility in Cherry Tree Lane car park this morning. The centre has...

People queueing outside the new coronavirus testing facility in Cherry Tree Lane car park this morning. The centre has faced a number of complaints, with particular confusion over how the facility was originally advertised. Picture: Eleanor Hobart - Credit: Archant

Lengthy queues and a lack of capacity are among the problems surrounding a new coronavirus testing facility in Rainham.


Separate sources — both of whom wish to remain anonymous — contacted the Recorder with their concerns as they tried to access the recently-opened Cherry Tree Lane facility this morning (September 14).

A secondary school teacher joined the queue at 7.45am to get tested alongside her son; she believes that, by the time the centre opened at 8.10am, there were more than 40 people in the queue.

It was then that she was informed that only those with appointments would be seen. She said: “People were frustrated and couldn’t see why there were so few people there with booked appointments. The staff claimed there weren’t enough physical tests for everyone.“

The outcome is that, until tested, she can’t teach and her son can’t return to school.

The queues outside the new coronavirus testing facility in Hornchurch. Picture: Karen Murrell

The queues outside the new coronavirus testing facility in Hornchurch. Picture: Karen Murrell - Credit: Archant

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“I just want to be back in the classroom,” she said. “My boy loved his first week back and he’s back to being off — I’m worried about him learning to read and write.“

A second lady attended the facility without an appointment following several unsuccessful attempts to book online.

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She believes much of the confusion is down to how the facility was originally advertised, saying: “The worker who came out seemed shocked that people were queuing without appointments. When he was informed that Havering has this site as a walk-in without appointment centre, he just said he doesn’t know anything about that and he cannot let anyone in without an appointment.“

The council has since confirmed that its website has been updated to say that appointments “must be booked in advance“.

Describing the situation as a “shambles“, she added: “I’d say easily seven in 10 people there were parents with kids that need to get back to school (so that parents can get back to work).“

The council provided the following statement from a spokesperson for the department of health and social care: “It is disappointing to hear of people having a poor experience accessing testing.

“NHS Test and Trace is working and the overwhelming majority of people report no issues with the process, with support available via 119 should anyone need it. Over 17 million tests have been delivered so far and we are aiming to grow capacity to 500,000 tests per day by the end of October.”

A further statement has been provided on this matter by Mark Ansell, director of public health:

“We’re sorry about the difficulties experienced by some residents at the Cherry Tree testing centre.

“This centre is not run by Havering Council.

“To be clear, it is currently operating as a ‘walk-through’ not a ‘walk-in’ testing site — so residents should book an appointment before attending. Residents who walk in without a booking are likely to be turned away.

“We know the quick turnaround in getting the site up and running led to a number of concerns within the local community and we’ve demanded action in response.

“The council has also requested more testing sites in the borough which will reduce the pressure on the Cherry Tree Lane site and give other communities easier access to testing.

“But residents will be aware of pressure on the testing system nationwide due to the recent increase in cases, including in Havering. Everyone with symptoms should get tested. But if you don’t have symptoms or haven’t been asked to get tested, please don’t book a test which may be required by someone else in greater need.

“Booking slots for this and other testing sites are made available the evening before for morning appointments and in the morning for afternoon appointments.

“If a test isn’t available at a practicable location and a home test isn’t on offer please try again. Getting tested is crucial to controlling the spread of coronavirus.”

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