Coronavirus tests under threat over massive shortfall in swabs

Tests for coronavirus and other major conditions may be affected after a supply chain failure at a diagnostics company that covers the whole country.

The backlog could affect tests for other NHS medical conditions like cancer and heart disease.

Swiss pharmaceutical firm, Roche, said problems arose following a move to a new warehouse and it could take two weeks to fix the issue.

The supply chain failure has led to a "very significant" drop in its processing capacity of swabs and testing equipment.

One NHS trust has advised GPS to stop all non-urgent blood tests, according to the BBC.

The firm has said they're prioritising dispatching Covid-19 and antibody tests.

In a statement, Roche said: "We deeply regret that there has been a delay in the dispatch of some products.

"We are prioritising the dispatch of Covid-19 PCR (diagnostic) and antibody tests and doing everything we can to ensure there is no impact on the supply of these to the NHS."

The company is one of the two main suppliers of diagnostic testing equipment and materials in England.

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The warehouse, based in Newhaven, East Sussex, is Roche's only distribution centre in the UK.

Their equipment covers the whole country.

Lead clinician for pathology at North Devon District Hospital, Dr Tom Lewis, said his hospital's trust advised all non-urgent blood tests in the community should be stopped.

They would run out of swabs in "three to four days", without rationing the non-urgent tests, he said.

But even with rationing, essential equipment could run short, he said to the BBC.

President of the Institute of Biomedical Science Allan Wilson said if the problem continued for "days it probably will have minimal impact, but if it's weeks then yes it could have a considerable impact on our ability to deliver tests," across a whole range of conditions in the UK.

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