A TEACHING assistant has branded coronavirus testing a ‘shambles’ after spending hours trying to book a test ­- only to be told a Bolton testing site is not following the correct process.

Jayne Buck is one of a number of people to contact The Bolton News about the difficulties they are having, with some saying they were told to travel to facilities as far away as Wales.

Bolton currently has the highest infection rate in the country with new tougher restrictions implemented to control the spread of the virus.

Nationally the government’s test and trace system has come under fire with people across the country reporting similar experiences with using the system.

Bolton Council said that some residents had reported having difficulties booking a test via the national portal, but added Bolton was a priority area and urged residents to keep trying to book a test, as new slots were becoming available all the time.

Ms Buck, aged 49, from Bolton, said she spent most of Tuesday trying to book a test to finally be given one in Telford, two hours away, where the testing centre ran out of tests.

“Fortunately I didn’t go to that centre. If I had I would have been turned away without a test,” she said.

Ms Buck said her partner suggested she should go to the Moor Lane testing service, which was taking people without bookings.

“I went at 10.30am and was given a test receipt card. I asked if they needed my mobile number and details and was told to just ring the 119 number on the card to register the test.

“I tried the number but this was just to book a test. After several phone calls ­- with both me and my partner on the phone ­- my partner managed to eventually speak to somebody.

“We were told that Bolton are doing the test process wrong, they in fact should register the test before you have it.

“We were on the phone one-and-a-half hours trying to register the details, fortunately she did take them. But it is just a shambles.

“It is really worrying given the situation in Bolton. How many people will stay on the phone for that long, and how many wasted tests will there be?”

One key worker told The Bolton News that Covid-19 test kits 'were like gold dust’.

The resident, from Blackrod, described the testing process as a ‘farce’ after being told to travel to Wales to get a test.

She said: “Bolton is an area of concern and testing isn’t readily available.”

Brian Williamson, aged 59, who suffers from chronic conditions, says it will be a week before his test result comes back.

He started trying to book a test on Wednesday, to be told “all the allocation has been used, call later”. Eventually after trying the website a number of times he got through, but with waiting for the test to arrive and to post it, Mr Williamson believes it will be almost a week before he gets his result back.

Mr Williamson added: “It is just very very poor. The system is over-subscribed.”

MP Yasmin Qureshi said the government needed to improve its track, trace and isolate system to contain the virus.

She said: “The areas with a high infection rate are in economically and socially deprived areas and people are being asked to travel 100 miles to get a test.

“People cannot be expected to travel 100 miles to get a test and we need a local track, trace and isolate system in place.”

Two new testing centres are set to open in Bolton.

Bolton Council consultant in public health, Nicki Lomax, said: “I know it is very frustrating for those who are finding it difficult to book a test for themselves or a loved one.

“Bolton has been listed as a priority area for new testing kits.”

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 our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week.

“We are seeing a significant demand for tests but if you have symptoms we urge you to get tested.

"New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily and you can help protect yourself if you wash your hands, cover your face and make space.

“We are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups, and we recently announced new laboratory facilities and new technology to process results even faster.”