Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted there are “challenges” with the coronavirus testing system following a “sharp rise” in demand.
Speaking to MPs on Tuesday, Mr Hancock said the government was “working hard” to fix issues with COVID-19 testing availability as he hinted at a possible future rationing of tests.
“The whole House knows there are operational challenges and we’re working hard to fix them,” the health secretary said.
“We’ve seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible.”
The government has come under growing pressure from NHS hospital trusts, public health officials and MPs over a lack of availability of coronavirus tests in some areas.
Mr Hancock said he would not rule out a further prioritisation of testing in order to ensure hospitals and care homes can get the tests they need.
“Throughout this pandemic we have prioritised testing according to need,” he told MPs.
“Over the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all requirements for testing whether priorities or not.
“But, as demand has risen, so we’re having to prioritise once again.
“I do not shirk from decisions about prioritisation. They’re not always comfortable, but they’re important.
“The top priority is, and always has been, acute clinical care.
“The next priority is social care, where we’re now sending over 100,000 tests a day because we have all seen the risks this virus poses in care homes.
“We’ll set out in full an updated prioritisation and I do not rule out further steps to make sure our tests are used according to those priorities.
“It is a choice that we must make.”