Concerns over Covid-19 testing kits following supply chain breakdown

Roche provides materials for a range of procedures including blood and urine tests, as well as diabetic care
Roche provides materials for a range of procedures including blood and urine tests, as well as diabetic care - (Copyright PA Wire)
9:16am, Wed 07 Oct 2020
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Concerns have been raised over the supply of vital testing materials for a range of conditions, including Covid-19, following a supply chain problem with pharmaceutical giant Roche.

On Tuesday, Roche said it had experienced a “very significant drop” in its processing capacity due to a problem with its Sussex distribution centre, the only one in the UK.

It has been reported that the shortage includes vital reagents, screening kits and swabs.

In addition to providing these chemicals and parts used in Covid-19 tests, Roche also provides materials for a wide range of procedures including blood and urine tests, as well as diabetic care.

Roche warned the issues with the supply chain may not be resolved for two to three weeks, but is prioritising the dispatch of Covid-19 and antibody tests.

Roche has alerted hospitals to an issue with their supply chain, and they will be working urgently to resolve this issue

In a letter seen by the PA news agency, the company told customers to activate their local contingency plans “and recommend that you look to prioritise essential services only”.

The letter adds: “In September we moved from our old warehouse to a new automated warehouse capable of much higher volumes.

“However, during the transition we encountered some unforeseen issues and a very significant drop in our processing capacity. Since then we have worked around the clock to prioritise and manage orders as well as increase this capacity”.

PA understands the issue has not had an impact on Covid-19 tests at this point.

However, concerns have been raised about the future supply of tests for the virus and the impact on making diagnoses and monitoring in other aspects of medicine.

An NHS spokesperson said: “Roche has alerted hospitals to an issue with their supply chain, and they will be working urgently to resolve this issue.”

A Roche spokesperson said: “We deeply regret that there has been a delay in the dispatch of some products and apologise to any of our customers who have been impacted.

Nurse takes coronavirus swab - (Copyright PA Wire)

“As well as extending working hours, we have recruited extra staff and, where they can, our dedicated teams on the ground are working with customers to distribute products and minimise service disruption.

“We will continue to provide regular updates to our customers and we are doing everything possible to return to routine operations.

“We are prioritising the dispatch of Covid-19 PCR and antibody tests and doing everything we can to ensure there is no impact on the supply of these to the NHS.”

The Government urged people who need coronavirus tests to continue to seek them despite the issue.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: “There is an issue with the supply chain. Roche are working with the NHS, the Health Secretary is fully aware.

“I would encourage people to continue going through the testing process – that process is still working.”

She added: “Roche are pushing very hard to resolve that issue… as soon as possible.”

Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham and health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, expressed her concern about the impact of the issue while the healthcare system was under “incredible strain”.

She said: “These reports will leave many people incredibly anxious, and rightly so.

“This does not only have serious consequences for our ability to test for Covid-19, but others with potentially incredibly serious illnesses will also be unable to get the blood tests or screening they need.”

She added: “Our NHS must be able to treat everyone, whatever their illness, and Ministers must do everything in their power to resolve this issue with the supply chain as quickly as possible.

“We cannot allow this virus to get further out of control, as well as further risking the health of thousands of individuals whose diagnosis of serious illness could either be delayed or go undetected.”

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