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