Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called on NHS Western Isles to give reassurances to the public that full Test & Protect procedures are in place for use in the Western Isles.

The call comes ahead of tomorrow’s launch (Friday May 29th) of the Scottish Government Test & Protect scheme which is a central part of the exit from lockdown into phase 1.

Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, said tonight: “Test & Protect is a key part of the Scottish Government’s strategy to ease lockdown and the accompanying restrictions which we have all necessarily, and rightly, had to endure. Scottish Government guidance is that we should follow procedures as outlined in the launch of the T&P scheme for tomorrow. We are also being told to advise our communities to do so.

“Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director, stated earlier this week that all 14 Health Boards will have the capacity to implement T&P procedures from Friday 29th May.

"I am not convinced that this is the case in the Western Isles and I am seeking urgent reassurances from NHS Western Isles that they are fully equipped, have all measures in place and that they are prepared in order to continue to fulfil their part in protecting the residents of the Western Isles.

“I want to ensure that people in the Western Isles are treated at least the same as people in the rest of Scotland, otherwise we are effectively being discriminated against. Our communities, which have been magnificent during this pandemic, deserve no less. Anything else means we are being treated as second class citizens in our own country.”

Earlier NHS Western Isles stated that it continues to use local arrangements to test a wide variety of individuals in line with Government policy, and around 550 tests for COVID-19 have been taken in the Western Isles to date.  

They said: "We welcome today’s launch of the wider (UK) national testing system, which introduces testing and contract tracing to anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 over the age of five. Symptoms of COVID-19 include a new, persistent cough, high temperature or loss or change in taste or smell.

"The national testing system promoted this week is separate to the local testing arrangements. NHS Western Isles is in ongoing discussions with national organisations to ensure arrangements are in place for local access to the UK government scheme.

NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, Dr Maggie Watts, stated: “Locally we are focusing our testing on people who are unwell with possible COVID-19 symptoms, including health, social care and emergency service workers, or members of their households. We are also testing people coming in to hospital or moving to care homes.

“On the mainland, there are both regional testing centres and local mobile testing units in place for the wider testing of anyone with symptoms over the age of five.

“We are working hard to arrange access to the national testing service, which will be communicated out to our communities very shortly.”

She added: “NHS Western Isles already has arrangements in place to commence contact tracing with the next confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Western Isles.”

The national testing arrangements on the Western Isles will involve local contact arrangements for those with symptoms, and these arrangements are currently being put in place. If symptoms worsen or last more than seven days, individuals shpuld contact NHS24 on 111.

Under the Test & Protect approach, if the test result is positive, individuals will be asked to provide details of all recent close contacts to NHS Western Isles contact tracer. This will be done confidentially and is a vital step in slowing the spread of the virus.

Those who are contacted will then be asked to isolate for 14 days to keep their community and loved ones safe, and they will be offered a test if appropriate.

The 14 day period is needed because if they have the virus, it may take that length of time for it to develop into an illness. Alongside Test & Protect, continuing to keep two metres apart from others when outside as well as regular handwashing and good cough hygiene remains vital in helping to reduce the spread of the virus.

NHS Western Isles local testing covers the following groups (in priority order, as per national guidance):

·       Hospital admissions (possible COVID)

·       Any patient in hospital with new or worsening symptoms

·       Any symptomatic resident or staff member in a care home

·       Symptomatic health, social care or category 1 workers, or household members, to facilitate return to work

·       Admissions to care homes from home, hospital or another location

·       Elderly hospital admissions (on admission and at four-day intervals)

·       Any other patients admitted to hospital may be offered testing by admitting team as part of local COVID-19 overview

·       Primary care may offer testing to people with symptoms of COVID-19