Barking & Dagenham LBC is thought to have become the first in England to set up a same-day COVID testing service for key workers, to sidestep delays in the national system for tests and results.
The council has said it decided to act because of concerns about delays at the NHS testing centres in the borough. NHS testing centres are run by 40 private and public companies, overseen by Deloitte.
Speaking to The Guardian, council leader Darren Rodwell said delays in people getting tested and receiving results caused problems in care homes, schools and among frontline workers, with those having to self-isolate while they waiting for others to have a test having a significant impact on the delivery of council services.
Cllr Rodwell said that one resident had contacted the council to say they had been told there was an eight-day wait to get a test at one site in the borough.
He told the newspaper: ‘Some of these tests take forever and then we have to do things like get in supply teachers while teachers are self-isolating, not knowing if they have been in contact with an infected person or not. That can be expensive.’
The council is writing to about 7,000 key workers to let them know that from November they can take part in a six-week pilot testing scheme running up to Christmas at a former council depot. The council is also working on contact-tracing, along with a number of other councils including Sandwell, Preston and Hull.