A mum who was turned away from a coronavirus testing site, despite booking an appointment, later got tested at a separate site without an appointment.
Natalie Longson drove 20 miles from Stockport to Bolton on Thursday (September 20) after booking a test for her daughter at the drive through centre on BlackHorse Street.
But when she arrived she was turned away by staff who said they couldn’t process the child’s test without a QR code – something Natalie insists she never received.
The frustrated mum headed home but later that day decided to try at a testing centre in Brinnington, in Stockport, where she was dealt with in minutes – despite not having an appointment.
Natalie described the testing situation in Bolton as “a total shambles” in comparison and has slammed staff for failing to inform queuing people that they would need QR codes before entering the site.
Her comments come after dozens of people were turned away from the Bolton site on Thursday (September 17).
The Department for Health and Social Care said people who have booked a “valid appointment” at a testing site will receive a test but those with the wrong QR code for a site will be turned away.
But Natalie says she was never sent a code – and she believes others in the queue were all in the same position.
She told the M.E.N: “Not one person in the queue was sent a QR code and that’s why no one was getting tests done.
“I got there at 1.55pm and the appointment I made was for between 2.15pm and 2.45pm.
“I got round to the stewards at 2.35pm to be told they can’t give my daughter her test without this code as we wouldn’t get the results back.
“The young steward said 400,000 appointments had been made and no one received their codes.”
Natalie heard from a friend that she could turn up to the walk-in testing site in Brinnington at 7pm and get tested without an appointment.
“This test site is literally a five minute drive from me, yet the only test I was offered was Burton-on-Trent, which after choosing, later said there was none available – stupid!”
When she arrived at Brinnington, Natalie spoke to a security guard.
She said: “He couldn’t understand why I was only being offered a test in Bolton when I basically only live around the corner and he said “yeah sure you can get a test but as long as you tell everyone we’re the best site in the country”.
“So we walked in and a lady asked us for my QR code. I said “we havent got one because when I booked my daughter’s appointment they never sent one and we had only been offered a test in Bolton, but the security guard said I’d be okay to do it without one”.
“She said “yeah that’s fine, this guy will come and show how to do your test”.
“So, he took us to an area of the tent and told us to take everything out of the grey bag they gave us with the swab in, we did her test and he sent us to the end of the tent to another lady to hand it in.
“We had a card that you write your details on and it has a sticker on in the top corner with a barcode on it. That’s the code you needed to give in in order to get your test results back. The one that they couldn’t possibly do a test without in Bolton.
“Why was it such a problem, if they have these registration cards? Why can’t they do it like that everywhere? It was a total shambles.
“In fact, why couldn’t they walk down the queue of cars in Bolton asking each driver if they have a code while they’re sat waiting? We came home and registered it within five minutes.”
Natalie added: “I understand that without appointments it’d be total chaos, and I understand the need to only test people who have symptoms – but surely they could have these cards to fall back on if they mess up the process and double book people?
Each person who turned around yesterday didn’t have the faintest idea of what was happening.
“All you could see was one steward telling each car when it got to the front, if you don’t have a code you can’t get a test, then that car turning round and driving away.
“I went down the queue telling people that if they didn’t get texted a code they couldn’t get a test done. No one had one! Every person I spoke to didn’t get one sent to them. It’s ridiculous. One couple had driven 40 miles for their test.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said that although walk-ins are available at some sites, those with appointments will be prioritised.
A spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at an unprecedented scale – 200,000 a day on average over the last week – with the vast majority of people getting tested within 6 miles of their home.
“People who have booked a valid appointment at a testing site will receive a test. If someone turns up with the wrong QR code for a site, they will be turned away from the site and advised to go to the correct site they booked on.”
“There has been a spike in demand in recent weeks and the message is clear – only people with symptoms should be requesting a test.”