News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 15 December 2021

Media Coverage

No extra rapid Covid tests for pharmacies as cities run out
The Telegraph, Bill Gardner, 14 December 2021

The Telegraph reports that pharmacies have been told by health officials that it is “not possible logistically” to increase deliveries of lateral flow Covid tests to more than a single carton a day. This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured citizens that there were “ample supplies” of tests “in the shops”, which led to unprecedented demand at pharmacies for rapid tests.

Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, which represents all 11,200 pharmacies in England, said officials had refused to lift a cap on daily deliveries of a single carton of 60 to 80 boxes of tests. “We have sought to increase the number of cartons of tests that all pharmacies can order but have been told this is simply not possible, logistically,” said Mr Buxton.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told the BBC: “The problem isn’t supply and volume, the problem is the allocation and distribution, or the delivery, of it… We’re making sure that however people may wish to order them and procure them, we’re ramping up not just the capacity … but the ability to distribute and to deliver.”

PCR test availability on the NHS website has also faced issues, with messages of “none available” visible to users in several counties. Ministers have been adamant that there is an adequate supply of tests available in warehouses nationwide, and Amazon has now been contracted alongside the Royal Mail to aid deliveries of PCR tests ordered via the Government website.

Parliamentary Coverage

There was no parliamentary coverage today. 


Full Coverage

No extra rapid Covid tests for pharmacies as cities run out
The Telegraph, Bill Gardner, 14 December 2021

NHS Test and Trace has told pharmacies that it cannot deliver any extra rapid Covid tests, despite entire cities running out by lunchtime on Tuesday, The Telegraph can reveal.

During an emergency meeting on Tuesday, officials claimed it was “not possible logistically” to increase supplies to pharmacies beyond a single carton per day.

Health leaders were even told that orders would be “paused temporarily” in some regions, despite Downing Street’s claim that millions of the Chinese-made kits are in warehouses across the country.

During the meeting, healthcare bosses pleaded with the Government to stop directing people to pharmacies for the tests after Boris Johnson insisted there were “ample supplies in the shops”. Staff were being “abused” by frustrated customers unable to test themselves for the omicron variant, the officials heard.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has advised anyone planning to mix with friends and family to take a lateral flow test beforehand to avoid catching or spreading the omicron variant.

Senior Tories said the Government’s failure to quickly distribute rapid tests would lead many people to fear they cannot “socialise safely” and “inevitably cancel their plans over Christmas”.

The Government website again suspended home deliveries of rapid devices, despite new rules requiring double-jabbed contacts of Covid cases to test themselves for a week.

Home deliveries of coronavirus lateral flow tests have again been suspended

A Telegraph analysis of the NHS website found that there were also no tests available at pharmacies within 30 miles of multiple postcodes in England by lunchtime on Tuesday, including entire cities such as Bath, Bristol and Wolverhampton. Some shops began selling single boxes for around £20, as customers complained the free tests were nowhere to be found.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, which represents all 11,200 pharmacies in England, said officials had refused to lift a cap on daily deliveries of a single carton of 60 to 80 boxes of tests.

“We have sought to increase the number of cartons of tests that all pharmacies can order but have been told this is simply not possible, logistically,” said Mr Buxton.

“We have also asked the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) not to direct more and more people to pharmacies, in light of the challenges that pharmacies are currently facing.”

Amazon brought in to help boost deliveries of tests

Care home bosses said the shortage of available tests had already forced visitors to stay away from their loved ones, and threatened to leave vulnerable elderly people on their own for the festive period.

Nadra Ahmed, chairman of the National Care Association, said: “Some providers are telling us that they haven’t been able to get hold of the tests through the Government site.

“Soon we will have to prioritise our remaining tests for our staff, and stop giving them to visitors. That will mean a lot of elderly and vulnerable people spending Christmas without seeing their loved ones.”

There were also problems with PCR tests with the government website saying there were “none available” in Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Berkshire, the Isle of Wight, Middlesex, Bristol and Mendip.

Ministers have claimed there is no shortage of the tests, with millions of the Chinese-made kits lying in warehouses across the country.

Amazon has been brought in to help boost deliveries alongside the Royal Mail. A Downing Street spokesman said 230,000 boxes were sent out through the website on Monday before the slots ran out. From 8pm Saturday to 8pm Sunday, the figure was around 370,000. Ministers are hoping capacity will increase over the course of the week, the spokesman added.

‘Essential’ that lateral flow tests are available when and where people need them

Mark Harper MP, former chief whip and the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of backbenchers, said: “Given ministers’ focus on encouraging people to use lateral flow tests to ensure they are able to socialise safely, it’s essential that ministers ensure supplies of tests are available when and where people need them.

“A failure to do so might lead to people inevitably cancelling their plans over Christmas, which is not an outcome anyone wants to see.”

Mr Harper suggested that supplies were running dry because the Government caused “panic” with its “language about emergencies”. He said “calmness” was now needed.

Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, insisted the issue with ordering lateral flow tests from the Government website was not due to a lack of the tests.

“The problem isn’t supply and volume, the problem is the allocation and distribution, or the delivery, of it,” he told the BBC.

“We know that in relation to the online system there were some challenges and that’s partly because of the proportion they’ve got each day.

“We’re making sure that however people may wish to order them and procure them, we’re ramping up not just the capacity … but the ability to distribute and to deliver.”

A UKHSA spokesman said: “We are working with pharmacies to respond to this unprecedented demand for lateral flow tests.

“We have processes in place to increase orders as requested by individual pharmacies and there is no shortage of lateral flow tests.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 15 December 2021

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