The Government’s supposedly ‘world-beating’ Covid-19 testing system is said to be ‘in chaos,’ with a backlog of 185,000 swabs as it desperately sends tests to Germany and Italy in a bid to catch up.
The system is claimed to have capacity for 375,000 tests a day, but the number being tested dropped to 437,000 a week at the start of September.
The figures, shared by The Sunday Times, amount to just 62,000 daily tests.
Its report claims Covid-19 hotspots in the North of England are struggling to get tests and told to travel hundreds of miles for an appointment.
The Government’s ‘world-beating’ testing system was said to have capacity for 375,000 tests a day – but by the end of the first week of September, there was an average of 62,000 daily tests
No tests were available in Bolton between Thursday and Saturday, as the city struggles with Britain’s highest infection rate – at 180 weekly cases per 100,000 people.
Earlier this week a ‘glitch’ in the system sent hundreds of people, from as far as London and Cornwall, to an overwhelmed testing site in Telford.
Tory MP Lucy Allan said: ‘On Tuesday evening, hundreds of cars from across the country – and I mean hundreds – descended on Telford and its testing site as directed by the booking system.
‘Tests quickly ran out, roads were blocked, people who had travelled from as far away as Cornwall, Stockport and London were turned away, and my constituents were no longer able to access tests in the area – and they in turn were sent elsewhere.’
The Government’s testing system is said to be ‘in chaos,’ as it struggles to reach the 375,000 daily test target, while labs cope with a backlog of 185,000 swabs
Hundreds of cars from across the country descended on a test centre in Telford on Tuesday, due to a ‘glitch,’ in the testing system, the town’s MP revealed
Some claimed they were turned away from the site after being told it had run out of tests.
Sarah-Jane Marsh, the director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, last week admitted that people were unable to get coronavirus tests because laboratories had reached a ‘critical pinch-point’.
With the Government facing a backlog of 185,000 tests, MailOnline understands it has plans to ‘rapidly expand,’ its systems in the coming weeks, and improve techlogy to improve turnaround.
Randox, which picked up the £133million testing contract at the start of the pandemic, is said be having major staffing problems – as it continues to void thousands of tests.
Whilst Randox was said to have blamed staff holidays for the voided results, it itself said it didn’t blame staff taking leave.
Documents seen by The Sunday Times claim the company disposed of 12,401 used swabs on September 2.
Since the start of August it has voided 35,000 used test kits – with no chance of a result – since the start of August.
The company, based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is said to be blaming leaks, damaged tubes and people sending urine rather than saliva, as the reason for voiding the tests.
Leaked figures reportedly show three-quarters of all tests take longer to than 24 hours to get a result back, with a quarter taking longer than 48 hours.
Officials claim the tests are being thrown away after an arbitrary period.
Randox hit back last night, saying it followed ‘accepted timelines,’ warning it could ‘jeopardise the accuracy and reliability of NHS Test and Trace,’ if it did not.
But officials have cast doubt on the feedback coming from some labs, saying that they are freezing or throwing away tests after an arbitrary period.
The Sunday Times claims Randox has blamed the high number of voided tests on staff taking holiday.
Steve Hynd drove two hours from Wales to get his sons, aged one and three, tested in Telford – but was told by officials there were no more tests left
Mr Hynd – whose father Mike, 80, tragically died from the disease – was then told he would have to go 68 miles away for another test the morning after
It has reportedly placed job adverts to boost its workforce, with advertisements saying it’s not essential to have a scientific background.
Earlier today the Mail on Sunday revealed Boris Johnson had written to more than 50 50 universities in a desperate bid to get more workers in Lighthouse Laboratories – a separate contract from Randox.
The Prime Minister appealed for 400 ‘technicians, post-docs or graduate students with molecular biology experience’ to staff the Lighthouse laboratories in Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Manchester, Newport and Glasgow, and for ‘qualified technicians/post-docs with management experience, to join the Test and Trace Laboratory Team to help manage our overall lab capacity’
Tests are being sent abroad to deal with the current backlog, but there are claims swabs being sent to Germany could also be voided as they’ve been transported at the wrong temperature.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth told The Sunday Times: ‘People ill or with a sick child desperate for a test will be astonished that tests are piling up, left unprocessed, or even thrown away, because of errors in transportation and swabbing, while at the same time we are testing less than capacity. This really is ministerial incompetence at a whole new level.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘NHS Test and Trace is working and our capacity is the highest it has ever been but we are seeing a significant demand for tests including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible.
‘New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for those who need them and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.
‘Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster.
‘If you do not have symptoms and are not eligible to get a test you can continue to protect yourself if you wash your hands, wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.’