Covid-19 (Test-booking Staff)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th December 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

6. To ask the First Minister how many staff are employed to answer calls to book Covid-19 tests in Scotland. (S5F-04653)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Appointments for symptomatic members of the public who require a test are, in almost all cases, made through the online booking system. The provision of that service is the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government. Separate arrangements are in place through national health service boards for testing NHS staff, patients and, increasingly, care home staff, who are transferring to NHS testing as capacity increases.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

I have been contacted by constituents who have waited on the phone for more than 90 minutes to book a test. That issue is really important, because a significant minority of people are unable to use the online service and may be waiting on a call. There should be no barriers, because we need everyone who has symptoms to book a test and to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus.

I understand that there are two helpline numbers for people to call—an 0300 number and an 0800 number. Are those lines staffed by the national health service in Scotland or through the United Kingdom Government, or both? What thought has been given to increasing the number of NHS Scotland staff handling requests to book tests?

The First Minister:

The member is right: there is an 0300 number and an 0800 number. As I understand it, both those lines are staffed through the UK Government. The first one certainly is; I think that the second is, too, but if I am wrong about that I will clarify the position. The UK Government does not allocate staffing to a particular nation. However, as I said in my original answer, although the phone lines are there for people who cannot use the online booking service, the vast majority of tests are booked through the online facility. If any member who is having particular constituency issues raised with them passes those issues on to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, we will absolutely take it upon ourselves to look into them.