UK to successfully increase COVID-19 testing capacity with multi-pronged approach

The UK is currently building the biggest network of diagnostic labs in British history, and has already shown success in increasing COVID-19 testing capacity with the addition of three Lighthouse Labs capable of processing a high volume of COVID-19 tests. Randox Labs has been a pivotal player in processing a high volume of tests, and recently made headlines when 50,000 units were sent to the US for processing due to a mechanical problem with one of their testing machines.

Dara Lo, Medical Device Analyst at GlobalData, offers her view: “COVID-19 testing capacity in the UK is built on a large number of established, mostly public labs that carry out a small volume of tests such as the PHE/NHS pathology network, and a smaller number of labs that carry out a high volume of tests, such as the Lighthouse Labs and Randox Labs. Operational failures are a common issue especially during the pandemic where high-throughput machines are operating without spare capacity. When there is an operational failure, this causes a backlog in tests, which cannot be absorbed within the UK’s testing network. As such, Randox Labs sending 50,000 tests to an accredited lab in the US for processing to deal with the backlog and get test results to patients as quickly as possible was just another part of the UK’s multi-pronged approach to increasing COVID-19 testing capacity.

“In terms of a disruption occurring to operations again, this testing network is newly built, and a certain amount of lead time to supply, install and set-up additional machines should be expected. This means that backlogs to testing are planned for and that contingency plans such as sending tests overseas for initial processing are in place.

“As the UK continues to expand its diagnostic testing network and new labs exit this phase of ‘growing pains’, it is expected that the diagnostic network will become robust enough to buffer any backlogs in tests itself.”

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