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Legal action threatened over Covid testing errors that affected thousands in Wales

06 Nov 2021 3 minute read
Sajid Javid. Picture by the Ministry of Housing (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The UK health secretary Sajid Javid is being threatened with legal action over failures at a Covid-19 test facility that gave false negative results to over 4,000 people in Wales.

Overall, up to 43,000 people across southwest England and the south of Wales are believed to have been given incorrect results by the laboratory in Wolverhampton which is run by the private company Immensa.

The majority of cases in Wales were from testing sites across the Aneurin Bevan and Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board areas between 8 September and 12 October.

Testing at the Wolverhampton facility was suspended after the errors were uncovered but Immensa is still processing PCR tests for travellers via a sister company at another centre.

The Good Law Project has sent a letter to UK Health Minister Sajid Javid and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) calling for greater scrutiny of private laboratories carrying out PCR testing on the government’s behalf, for the company to lose of its government contracts and for compensation to be offered to people affected by the false negative results.

Avoidable deaths

The letter states: “Given the number of false negatives involved, it seems inevitable that the chains of infection arising as a result of the defendants’ breaches of legal duty will have led to significant avoidable death and serious illness.”

Gemma Abbott, legal director of Good Law Project, told the Times: “The health secretary should immediately cancel Immensa’s contracts, compensate those affected and take urgent steps to ensure private testing firms are properly regulated. How many more wake-up calls does this government need before it starts putting public safety ahead of private interests?”

Immensa was founded in May last year and was awarded a £119 million PCR testing contract in four months later.

The deal did not go out to tender because it was urgently needed to respond to the pandemic.

According to the Times, it subsequently won a further £50 million testing contract in August this year and later won a separate contract valued at £12 million to monitor the spread of Covid-19 variants.

The company has not yet been fully accredited by UKAS, the national accreditation body.

Last week, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the testing errors were a factor in the recent surge of Covid cases across Wales last month.

He told BBC Wales : “Thousands of people in some parts of Wales were misdiagnosed by the laboratory in Wolverhampton that told people they were negative when they were positive took the advice and went back into work and were infectious to other people,” he said.

“It’s not the complete explanation but it is part of the explanation.”

The UK government has dismissed claims of a link between the laboratory’s problems and the steep rise in cases in Wales and the southwest of England.

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2 years ago

We will not know how this happened unless ALL of Immensa’s positive control results are made public, for every batch of tests. Positive control results can be made public without breaching patient confidentiality, so there are no honest reasons for withholding them. I’ve not done any diagnostic PCRs myself since the swine flu outbreak, and the format may have changed since then. What I want to know is the ratio of positive control samples to real samples, and how many positive controls returned negative results. From reading between the lines, it seems likely that the lab re-tested old samples after… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Hannergylch
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 years ago

How strange. I haven’t heard any criticism of the English Tory Government and Health Minister Sajid Javid by the Welsh Conservatives regarding the 4000 Welsh Covid testing errors? This is reminiscent of the blood scandal of the Thatcher government when contaminated blood was bought from the US resulting in the deaths of thousands. Sadly even today hundreds are still suffering & dying 40 plus years later. And although an enquiry is ongoing nobody has ever been charged with any crime. Covid will be no different. Since the start of the pandemic thousands have died due to cynical Tory policy of… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Y Cymro
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 years ago

They would deny any link as a matter of course…

Keep it up GLP another tenner on the way…

People of Ynys Mon I hope you are all aware that your MP voted for sleaze and Owen Paterson keeping his nose in the trough…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
2 years ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I recommend the article in today’s Observer newspaper, via Guardian online, by Chris Bryant regarding the ‘crimes’ of Owen Paterson.

I would also like to point out that his behaviour and that of his boss was backed by the MP for Ynys Mon…

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
2 years ago

I had to read some of it a few times as it made little sense. This bit especially! ‘Immensa was founded in May last year and was awarded a £119 million PCR testing contract in four months later.
The deal did not go out to tender…’ We need the names of the people who dish out these contracts willy nilly regardless of quality. Rishi Sunak makes such a big thing of value for money for tax payers and then we read something like this! Doublespeak or what.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
2 years ago

Testing being done by a private company that f*cked up the test results. Well I never! And I thought the private sector was supposed to be super-efficient and oh-so-much better than the public sector!

2 years ago

One of the great benefits of this, has been to the UK government – helping to close the shameful gap between between Wales’ superior handling of Covid, and London’s own.

The recent surge in Covid figures in Wales at least levels the playing field, and for this the UK Gov must be thankful for convenient coincidences.

Last edited 2 years ago by Elfyn

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