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Want to book a coronavirus test? Please don't call NHS 111 or your GP practice

The NHS is urging people not to call its 111 helpline or their GP practice or visit their hospital’s emergency department if they want a coronavirus test.

That’s the message from health professionals across Suffolk and north east Essex who have highlighted a big increase in call volumes, with some GP practices reporting that one in five telephone calls relate to coronavirus testing.

Instead, tests should be booked via the Government website - https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test - or the NHS 119 dedicated helpline.

Kevin Whomes, practice manager at Swan and Forest GP surgeries in west Suffolk, said: “This big increase in call volume is placing an extra burden on our already very busy staff, as well as making it more difficult for patients with primary care needs to contact us.

“It’s quite right that anyone with coronavirus symptoms gets tested, and it’s clear people are making an effort to arrange a test. But I urge them not to contact their practice if they have an inquiry about testing or are having difficulty in organising a test, as we have no access to the test system.”

Belinda White, Regional Manager at Care UK which operates the 111 service across Suffolk and north east Essex, said: “As always the 111 service is here 24/7 for all urgent medical help and advice. What we cannot do is book COVID-19 tests.

“We understand it must be so frustrating for patients who have to sit in a call waiting line to have their query answered only to be told that they have come through to the wrong service so please dial 119 for test help. 

“By dialing 119 for tests you are helping us to ensure we can support those with medical issues promptly at this time of increased pressure.”

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a test. 

Coronavirus symptoms are:
• a high temperature
• a new, continuous cough
• a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
 

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