A lack of coronavirus tests for NHS staff is leading to staff absences and services being put at risk, hospital bosses have warned.
NHS Providers, which represents English hospital trusts, said staff are having to self-isolate because they cannot get tests for themselves or family members.
It comes after widespread reports of people struggling to get tested.
The home secretary said the government was “surging capacity” where it was needed.
The government’s testing system – part of its test, track and trace operation which Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised would be “world-beating” – has faced criticism in recent weeks.
An increase in demand for coronavirus tests has led to local shortages, with some people being directed to test sites hundreds of miles from their homes.
Meanwhile, there have been fewer than 100 Covid-19 deaths in a week in the UK for the first time since March, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
There were 8,996 deaths were registered in the UK in the week of 4 September – 83 of those deaths mentioned coronavirus, the lowest figure since the week of 13 March.
‘Working in the dark’
Around 220,000 tests are processed each day, according to government figures released last week, with a testing capacity of more than 350,000 – which includes swab tests and antibody tests. The aim is to increase that to 500,000 a day by the end of October.
Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast said: “I haven’t said there’s a shortage of tests, what I have said is that we’re surging capacity in areas where we’ve had local lockdowns.
“Clearly there is much more work that needs to be undertaken with Public Health England and the actual public health bodies in those particular local areas, and as a government obviously we work with Public Health England to surge where there is demand in local hotspot areas.”
Last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there had been “challenges in access to tests” but said “the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home”. He suggested demand from people who did not have symptoms was partly to blame for the shortages.
NHS Providers said hospitals in London, Bristol and Leeds had raised concerns over the weekend about staff absences because of a lack of testing.
Chris Hopson, NHS Providers chief executive, said it was “clear” there were capacity problems. Read more