The chaotic return to lockdown in Leicester is exposing the scandal of privatised ' test and trace' failure that lies at the heart of the UK Government's failure to manage the Covid-19 crisis.
In a report today, the Financial Times has exposed that the lack of warning about the rising tide of infections in Leicester can be blamed on the fact that the results of the privatised 'Pillar 2' testing of the wider population are not being shared openly and quickly with local health authorities.
The 'Pillar 1' tests being reported in Leicester - those carried out in hospitals on people with a clinical need and health workers - seemed to suggest there was nothing to worry about. The FT explains that the city was thought to have had just 80 new positive tests for the fortnight up to 26 June. But then Matt Hancock announced there had actually been 944!
|Taken from the FT via the Leicester Mercury |
- As far as can be worked out, testers at regional sites are provided by Sodexo and Boots; some sites are operated by Deloitte. Serco, G4S, and Levy provide facilities management. Randox provides home testing kits, the logistics for which are provided by Amazon;
- Pillar 2 samples are analysed by the four new “lighthouse labs,” which involve AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline, even though both state that “diagnostic testing is not part of either company’s core business";
- Randox analyses the samples from its home test kits, with a contract for £133m. This compares with the £86.9m provided to PHE for infectious disease, surveillance, and outbreak management in 2018-19. In all, 67,000 Randox tests are reported to have been sent to the US for analysis because of lack of capacity, but 29,500 results were found to be invalid and needed to be redone.
- It is unclear what happens to many test results, in particular whether they are fed back to individual patients’ GPs. Several hundred thousand tests are reported not to have been linked to NHS records, missing confirmed cases. There is also no indication whether results are made available to staff doing local contract tracing. The chief medical officer for England is reported to have apologised to local authorities for not having detailed data from tests conducted by Deloitte. It is unclear whether PHE has timely access to test outcomes.