Residents were left furious after an "issue with online bookings" meant people who arrived to get tested at Sunderland were turned away for not having a QR code.

Northumbria Police were called to the mobile testing unit at Doxford Park in Sunderland on Thursday (September 17), due to a huge "backlog" of cars with people believing they had an appointment.

This meant people were turned away with some residents being told the site was now "closed" because the computer system had "crashed."

And later that day, residents with bookings turned up to the site to discover there was no one there to swab them for the virus with some calling it "diabolical."

Sunderland City Council has since urged people not to show up without an appointment.

Mum and daughter told testing site had closed

An empty Covid testing site at Azure Court in Sunderland, where people turned up to be tested
The testing site at Doxford Park in Sunderland, where people turned up to be tested

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, had travelled for over an hour to get to an appointment for her 8-year-old daughter at Doxford Park between 2.15 and 2.45pm.

But when she got there she was met with traffic "chaos" and police cars and was told by staff at the site that it was closed.

She had not received a QR code when she booked in for a test slot - but thought the appointment was still going ahead after seeing a confirmation page on her screen.

The mum said: "My daughter is 8 and she started showing symptoms two days ago and there's also a case at her school.

"I don't think she's got it but I'm trying to do the right thing by following the guidelines, I'm trying to get a test and eventually we managed to get one in Sunderland.

"The road was pretty chaotic coming off the A19 roundabout and we went along the main road and there were lots of cars trying to turn right on the industrial estate.

"We were getting turned back by a security guard who said the site is closed.

"I snook around the back way and there was another car in the testing car park and there were about 20 testers all wearing high-vis jackets.

"They said they couldn't test us because we hadn't been sent a QR code and they weren't allowed to take our details.

"I did think it was unusual that I hadn't recieved an email but I had seen that confirmation screen that said we have got an appointment between 2.15 and 2.45 at this place.

"They had the people and the tests there but they couldn't do it because the computer said no.

"They said the police had come and the site was closed because of all the IT issues. People hadn't got an appointment when they thought they did which was causing chaos on the roads.

"The government must have known schools going back would mean a rise in testing because it's normal for children to get colds and coughs.

"I just want our children to get back to some normality."

A Northumbria Police spokesperson said: "At 1.15pm on Thursday, (September 17), we were called to assist with traffic issues on Admiral Way, Sunderland.

"Officers attended the scene and assisted with the flow of traffic, and the situation was resolved a short time after."

No show for staff at testing centre

Colin Thompson and granddaughter Sophia Littlemore 15 who arrived for their appointment at the Covid testing site at Azure Court in Sunderland to find nobody there
Colin Thompson and granddaughter Sophia Littlemore 15 who arrived for their appointment at the Covid testing site at Azure Court in Sunderland to find nobody there

Later that day, people turned up for appointments at Doxford Park but were told by the media they would not be tested, as there were no officials there to inform them.

Colin Thompson, 59, his daughter Maria, 42, and his granddaughter Sophia Littlemore, 15, were just one family left in the dark.

He said: "My daughter and granddaughter had an appointment at 3.35pm, we came here, the car park's over three-quarters full, and nobody's turned up.

"My daughter's been trying to get an appointment for four days to get a test for her and her daughter, so she can send her to school. This is absolutely a joke, it's diabolical.

"My granddaughter suffers from asthma but because she had a cough, she was sent home from school to get tested and then when we went, nobody was there! It's very frustrating.

"I'm disappointed, I'm upset and I feel extremely let down by our government."

Family turned away from 'empty site' for not having a QR code

Another family from Gateshead were also turned away from Brinkburn Crescent Car Park, Houghton-le-Spring yesterday because they too didn't have a QR code.

However they were led to believe the appointment was still going ahead and turned up to the site which they described as almost empty with only one other car there.

Brian Turnbull said: "When I did it, I was led to believe I had an appointment but I didn't get a text message with a QR code.

"When we got there the person said we're not on the system, he checked my registration and there was still nothing on the system.

"He asked whether I clicked through the whole thing and I said I did but because I didn't have a QR code they couldn't test us. They said a few people had had that problem.

"There was 12 of them there with nothing to do, there was only one other car there. How can there be no one at the testing centres but no tests available? It doesn't make sense.

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"There should be something telling people to make them aware that if you don't get a text message or email don't even bother going to get tested because you'll be turned away. It's a shambles."

His daughter Rebecca added: "If it's a well-known issue people should be made aware because what's the point of even leaving your house?"

The family had went there to get Rebecca's asthmatic son Logan, 9, a test so he can go back to school.

However, they left without a test and now Rebecca has had to stay off work to look after her son after new local restrictions were put in place meaning Logan's grandparents couldn't care for him.

Residents across the North East have now been banned from socialising in homes or gardens with people outside their own households or support bubble after a spike in cases.

Whilst some people can enter private homes for the purposes of childcare, they can only do so if they are "registered providers", i.e. childminders or nannies who are paid to be there.

Rebecca said: "I have to get my son a test and until I do he can't go back to school.

"I was getting up at 6am in the morning to try book in for a test and there was still nothing.

"He's asthmatic but because he has a cough, we have to keep him off school because it's a coronavirus symptom and I can't get him tested.

"We now can't get a test for him and now he can't stay with his grandparents because of the new restrictions so we have to stay at home.

"I can't go to work, I'm self-employed so then that means I can't make any money."

Sunderland Council urge residents not to show up without an appointment

In a statement on their Facebook page, Sunderland City Council said: "We have been made aware of people turning up at Doxford Park and other test sites without an appointment, whilst trying to book online or by phone when sitting in the queue. Obviously they were turned away.

"However, this, unfortunately, meant that some people who had pre-booked, lost genuine appointments due to the amount of people who attended causing a backlog.

"Do not attend hospital or call your GP either, they cannot give you a test.

"You should only book a test if you have symptoms of Covid-19 or have been advised to by the NHS Test and Trace Team."

The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.