2.5 million Covid tests not sent to pharmacies over Christmas ‘because only distributor closed for break’

·3-min read
A sign saying lateral flow coronavirus tests are out of stock is seen at a pharmacists in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
A sign saying lateral flow coronavirus tests are out of stock is seen at a pharmacists in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

Around 2.5 million Covid lateral flow tests were not sent to pharmacies over Christmas reportedly because the distributor shut up shop for the festive break.

On Christmas Eve, 2.5 million tests were sent to the distributor Alliance Healthcare UK to be sent onwards to pharmacies where tests can be collected by customers with a collect code.

But the distributor apparently closed for four days until December 29, despite desperate levels of demand for the tests, The Times reported.

In an update for pharmacies, the body which represents NHS pharmacy contractors said: “On 24th December, 2.5 million tests were sent to Alliance Healthcare. 

“That stock was ready to be delivered 29th December when Alliance Healthcare re-opened after its planned Christmas break.”

The Standard has approached Alliance Healthcare UK for comment but a UK spokesperson told the Times it had closed on 25 December until 28 December.

Alongside the festive period, changes to isolation rules have increased demand for lateral flow tests. 

They have repeatedly shown as out of stock for home delivery on the Government website, including as of Monday morning.

Watch: What is a Rapid Lateral Flow Test?

Pharmacies had also reported dwindling stocks, with supplies running out in as little as 20 minutes. 

On December 29, of fifty pharmacies surveyed by the Standard in London, only 12 had any lateral flow tests to give out at all and of those many said they were down to their last few tests.

Labour’s Wes Streeting said the government should have done more to prepare for the surge in demand over Christmas and New Year’s.

He said: “The government has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to England’s supply of Covid tests.

“Boris Johnson’s incompetence has put public health and our ability to keep the economy open at risk. He needs to get a grip.”

Leyla Hanbeck, the chief executive of Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said she warned government officials more than one distributor may be needed.

She told the Times newspaper: “Two or three weeks ago, I wrote to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), and I said to them… You have only given it to one wholesaler to deliver, which obviously makes it difficult”.

A further 2.3m Orient Gene tests were supplied to the distributor on December 29, according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

Another 1.97 million tests were sent to Alliance Healthcare on December 30. Many pharmacies will have seen closures over the Christmas period.

A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency previously told the Standard that it was delivering “record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies”, with around 8 million being made available up to New Year’s Eve.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi claimed on Monday ministers had “trebled the deliveries” of the rapid Covid tests “from about 300,000 to 900,000 a day”.

The Standard has contacted the UKHSA for further comment.

Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting