Doctors in Unite letter to Pollock, Brooks, Harding-Edgar, et al in support of their concerns with respect to COVID “screening” in Liverpool.

Allyson Pollock
Anthony J Brooks
Louisa Harding-Edgar
Angela E. Raffle
Stuart Hogarth
CC: Dr Ashton, Director of Public Health, Liverpool.

Dear Colleagues,

Doctors in Unite would like to support your letter expressing concerns about the mass testing for COVID 19 in Liverpool.

At the same time, we are surprised that Dr Ashton, Director of Public Health for Liverpool is enthusiastic about the pilot and would be interested to hear his reasoning and if there is more detailed information which has led him to this conclusion.

We believe that there is a place for testing of a sufficiently-sized random sample of individuals if it is to determine more accurately the prevalence of COVID 19 in society, (as conducted by the Office of National Statistics and the University of Oxford) in fact we called for this early on in the pandemic. However, opening the testing to everybody detracts from the randomness of the sample, which becomes self-selected, and creates a significant issue of false negative test results as well as the fact that a positive test result does not necessarily indicate infectivity.

Mass testing with the aim of suppressing the virus, without adequate ‘Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support’ is in our view unlikely to be successful. As you point out even a very small false positive rate will mean that people who are not infected will be told to self-isolate and there will be a larger number of these individuals and their families the more people who are tested. Without income protection many people are likely to decline to be involved.

We believe that the Westminster Government response to the COVID 19 pandemic has been appalling and that many lives have been unnecessarily lost. It is time for the Government to abandon their populist approach and to start to be led by the science. Any mass testing programme such as in Liverpool should be subject to critical scrutiny by public health professionals including those with expert knowledge of screening issues so that risks and benefits may be adequately assessed and understood before implementation.

Best wishes

Dr Jackie Applebee, Chair Doctors in Unite