The testing centre in Wainwright Road car park, Bexhill, had been providing coronavirus tests to NHS workers and other key workers since April 20, but it had not been available to local people who qualified for a test.
Following campaigning from East Sussex health chiefs, Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman and Rother district councillors, the site has now been added to the national website and is a part of the national testing system, meaning 150 per day can now receive a drive-through test in Bexhill.
Previously, because the centre had been set up as a satellite centre for NHS workers, other key workers and residents were being directed across Sussex to the centres at Gatwick or Brighton. This had led to concerns that East Sussex residents would be less likely to obtain a test.
Richard Thomas, Rother district councillor for St Stephens ward, said the number of people being tested there has now doubled since it was added to the national website last week.
He described the development as ‘excellent news for the people of Bexhill and Battle’.
The Wainwright Road testing station, which was set up by Deloitte as part of the government testing programme but is operated by local NHS, had been underused as it was only available to NHS staff.
In May, Mr Merriman raised the issue with Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health. After the debate, Mr Merriman said Mr Hancock had given his assurance that the technical issue would be addressed ‘as a matter of urgency’.
This week, Mr Merriman said: “This has not been an easy process, and has required some lobbying in the House of Commons chamber, but I want to put on record my thanks to our fantastic local NHS team for getting us there.
“They know, to defeat the virus and keep their staff safe, that more people need to be tested to stem the infection. I hope local people will use the centre. It’s efficient, painless and the results tend to arrive within a couple of days.”
Adrian Bull, chief executive of the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (EHST), welcomed the news, adding: “I am delighted that ESHT are providing the drive through Covid-19 testing facility at Bexhill – one of the first local facilities in the country to be included in the national testing network – which will avoid people having to travel across the county to get their test.”
Adam Doyle, Senior Responsible Officer for the Sussex Health and Care Partnership, said, “Across Sussex we’ve been working hard to make it quicker and easier for people to get tested for Coronavirus. It’s fantastic that the Bexhill site is now available through the national website so that more people can get tested closer to home. I’d like to thank colleagues from across the NHS, local councils and our partners for their hard work and support in this and our wider Sussex testing programme.”