A HOSPITAL worker from Hampshire has been forced to stay home from work for five days after being unable to book a coronavirus test.

The mental health support worker, who lives in North Hampshire but works at specialist hospitals across the south east, told The Advertiser that she felt "betrayed" that she was unable to get a coronavirus test almost a week since her symptoms started.

She added that a lack of testing will help a second wave of coronavirus 'explode', and could affect staffing levels at hospitals and schools if workers are forced into self-isolation.

Whilst she says it is likely that she is just suffering from a cold, she was advised by her GP to not go to work, where she helps patients suffering from severe mental health problems, until she has a negative test or seven days since she first felt unwell.

It comes as pressure mounts on the government over the lack of availability of tests in recent weeks.

People across the country have been unable to book tests for days.

Now, a mental health worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, has got in contact with The Advertiser to speak out about her testing issues.

She first started feeling unwell on Thursday last week, and after developing a fever and runny nose on Sunday, she called 111 for advice.

They said that whilst it was likely a bacterial infection, she should get a Covid-19 test to rule it out, and to self-isolate for up to seven days whilst she did this.

But the professional said it was "impossible" to get a test, like many others across the country, and even when she explained that she was an essential worker, she was told that there were no Covid tests available in England.

"Personally I feel betrayed," the mental health worker told The Advertiser. "We went into those hospitals fully aware that the PPE was inefficient. We worked with the patients that were having mental health crises that would make them chaotic or verbally abusive to staff.

"We have all been doing that and hearing now that when people actually need those tests [they cannot access them], I feel betrayed.

"It is really unfair that we the frontline staff that have been helping patients are being told there are no tests.

"It is literally shameless. If there is no tests, there is a higher chance of a second wave exploding."

The healthcare professional believes that the problem is not the number of tests available, but the capacity at labs that run them for results.

As the virus only lives on surfaces for 72 hours, the swabs must be tested within that timeframe, or they are no longer valid. A bottleneck in the system could render many tests unusable.

Her symptoms started five days ago, and with the government recommendation that people with symptoms should get a test within the first five days of symptoms, unless one is available by the end of Tuesday, she would have passed that period.

On top of this, she believes that she will likely end her seven-day self-isolation period before she is able to get a test.

"People are going to be stuck at home," the whistleblower continued. "That is literally why there was no cases in Basingstoke [on Sunday], because it has been impossible to book a test.

"It is absolutely shocking, I didn't know what to say. That is the situation at the moment.

"People will be coming to hospitals not knowing whether they have Covid-19 or not."

The mother of two adds that her two daughters suffered from the common cold three times in three months last autumn, and if that happens again this year and testing access does not improve, she fears that she will have to keep her children off school for a week each time.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working, our capacity is the highest it has ever been and but we are seeing a significant demand for tests. New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for people with symptoms and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.

“Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster. If you do not have symptoms and are not eligible to get a test you can continue to protect yourself if you wash your hands, wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.”