BASINGSTOKE residents with suspected coronavirus have been forced to travel to other cities to be tested - despite a mobile assessment centre being set up on their doorstep.

As previously reported, the Department for Health and Social Care installed a temporary mobile testing unit at Basingstoke Leisure Park for three days last week.

The facility - operated by the specially trained members of the armed forces - could test hundreds of people a day.

But when observed by the Gazette and members of the public, the unit remained empty with just a handful of people using the facility.

Meanwhile, residents attempting to book tests through the government's website and helpline were being sent to Oxford, Winchester, Guildford and Portsmouth.

The Gazette has contacted the Department for Health and Social Care to ask why this was the case and to confirm how many tests were carried out while its mobile unit was open.

One resident, Graham Payne said: "I applied for a test while self-isolating and was offered Guildford or Portsmouth. yet they are testing just down the road from me. [It's] ridiculous. It doesn't make sense."

While another woman said her partner endured a three-hour round-trip to Oxford to be tested.

The town's MP Maria Miller said it was vital tests were easy to access and pledged to ask the department why it was not possible for them to have been seen in their home town.

Speaking to the Gazette, Mrs Miller said: "The booking system for Covid-19 tests is controlled by the NHS and factors in where mobile units will be on a day by day basis. I will ask why residents were required to travel for Covid19 tests when the mobile unit was in Basingstoke for three days last week. It is important that tests are easy to access."

The armed forces are staffing some 92 units across the UK as the government continues to strive to test 100,000 people a day.

More than 10 million key workers and their households are eligible for Covid-19 tests which can booked online through the government's website.