An Auchinleck woman was forced to take a 100-mile round trip to Castle Douglas to get a PCR test just a couple of days after Christmas when a slot shortage and surge in Covid cases put the testing system under pressure.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, tried to book a PCR test on Tuesday, December 28 via the UK Government website after she was identified as a close contact. Each time, she was advised that there were no test slots available anywhere in Ayrshire.

As a result, the woman had to drive two hours to Dumfries and Galloway to put her mind at ease.

The woman, whose partner is a key worker, said: “They need to update the site. When you’re going through it trying to book, it asks if you’ve had a second jab but doesn’t ask if you’ve had a booster. It doesn’t take any notice of that fact.

“Taking a 100-mile round trip doesn’t seem sensible but I didn’t want to wait for the postal test kit. The test came back negative but now they’re saying if you have no symptoms, take an LFT test when that was not the initial guidance. The guidance was saying take a PCR.

“I don’t know how it decides on an area. I thought Glasgow might have been closer but it didn’t come up as an option so I assumed it was fully booked, as was the whole of England.”

Last week, PCR tests were showing as unavailable across most of Scotland, with the UK Government’s test for coronavirus service stating that there were “very few appointments available” for walk-in and drive-thru tests.

Updating Parliament on December 29, FM Nicola Sturgeon said “the current surge in cases means testing capacity - sampling and processing - is under pressure” and “if you try to book a test, and can’t find a slot in a location you can get to, do try again later”.

Chronicle readers also found difficulty in securing a PCR test, with some having to travel to Castle Douglas, too, as well as places such as Stranraer and East Kilbride.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The PCR testing system continues to operate well even though we have seen significant increases in daily cases across the UK and our labs are working through cases as quickly as they can. If you have trouble finding an available test slot in your local area, we advise trying again later.

“The UK Government is responsible for capacity in the Lighthouse Lab network. Additional laboratory capacity has been implemented and we continue to work with the UK Government to ensure that the levels of lab capacity remain appropriate.

“It is vital that test results are communicated in a timely manner to allow the appropriate public health action to be taken. We aim to have to communicate results from physical test sites within 48 hours. Postal tests may take longer.”