Wales to supply England with 4 million lateral flow tests to meet surge in demand

The public is being urged by pharmacy leaders to behave respectfully to pharmacy staff as they tackle huge demand for lateral flow tests, which has led to widespread shortages.
Pile of lateral flow tests

The Welsh government has agreed to loan an addition 4 million lateral flow tests (LFTs) to England, as pharmacies continue to report high demand from the public for the kits.

In a statement published on 30 December 2021, Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales, said: “The health minister [Eluned Morgan] has agreed today to loan a further 4 million such tests to the English NHS, bringing that mutual aid to 10 million lateral flow tests.”

“Wales has a significant stock of lateral flow tests, sufficient to meet our needs over the weeks ahead,” the statement added.

In August 2021, the devolved nations agreed to loan 20 million LFTs to help meet demand in England.

Pharmacies in England reported a surge in demand for LFT kits following prime minister Boris Johnson’s televised address on the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on 12 December 2021 — the same day that the Department of Health and Social Care announced that fully vaccinated contacts of people with a positive COVID-19 PCR test should take a LFT each day for seven days in lieu of self-isolating.

In an update published on 30 December 2021, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said that 2.5 million tests were sent to Alliance Healthcare distribution centres on 24 December 2021. It confirmed that these were ready to be delivered to community pharmacies on 29 December 2021.

Distribution centre stocks were then replenished by 2.3 million further tests on 29 December 2021, 2 million on 30 December 2021 and “a similar number” planned for delivery on 31 December 2021, the PSNC said.

A spokesperson for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 31 December 2021 that the UK’s COVID-19 testing programme “is the biggest in Europe with almost 400 million tests carried out since the start of the pandemic”.

“We are delivering record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies across the country, with almost 8 million test kits being made available to pharmacies between 29 December 2021 and New Year’s Eve,” they added.

In comments published on 30 December 2021, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the PSNC, said that the UKHSA is “sending the maximum available stock of test kits to pharmacies via their partner wholesaler”, but added that “most pharmacies report that as soon as a carton of test kits arrives, the constant public demand means the kits are all handed out before the end of the day”.

“We share the feelings of frustration that there is insufficient stock of test kits to meet the current unprecedented demand from the public, but people’s annoyance should not be taken out on pharmacy staff who are doing their best to meet the needs of the public alongside providing other essential healthcare services.

“We ask the public to recognise the supply constraints that pharmacies are working under and that they behave respectfully to pharmacy team members,” Buxton added.

In a statement published on 29 December 2021, Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, asked the public to “remain patient with pharmacists and their teams” as the sector faces shortages of LFTs.

Anderson urged governments and the NHS to take “immediate action to ensure additional lateral flow testing kits are distributed to pharmacies to be supplied to the public as soon as possible”.

Read moreHow reliable are lateral flow tests?

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2021, Vol 307, No 7956;307(7956)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.121978

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