Male lab technician carrying out tests with lab equipment

Covid Testing: Keeping up with demand during the second wave?

As the UK finds itself in the middle of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, testing capabilities are becoming ever more strained as people attempt to maintain the normality they have regained since overcoming the first wave. Covid-19 testing is now more widely available than it previously was during the first wave. This has been a key factor that has enabled many to restart activities which were an everyday part of their lives pre-Covid. During the last few months, we have seen restaurants and bars re-opening, people returning to workplaces and students back in education – all of which has been made possible by the rapid development and widespread use of a functioning Covid-19 testing system that has helped restore public confidence to return to normal.

However, cases of the virus have recently been increasing. This happened gradually at first but in more recent weeks we have experienced an incremental rise in cases, resulting  in new restrictions through the introduction of a tiered system that imposes tighter restrictions on people based on the number of cases in their region. The new restrictions are a bid to reduce the spread of the virus, with the Government hoping that its Track and Trace system will enable them to be one step ahead of the virus.

The increase in cases and subsequent implementation of restrictions means that the demand for Covid-19 testing has risen sharply. The Track and Trace system is now able to quickly inform people when they have potentially been exposed to the virus and can instruct them to isolate or get tested when someone they have been in contact with displays symptoms or has a positive test result. The Government is, therefore, encouraging people to get tested when they display symptoms in an attempt to control the spread, but current demand is fast outweighing the number of tests available.

The testing shortfall peaked at the end of September, with an immense strain placed upon laboratories to provide and analyse tests. The Head of the NHS Test and Trace in England admitted that the demand for Coronavirus testing was three or four times higher than the total daily capacity during this period. Reports emerged of people travelling for hours to get a test due to their local testing centre turning them away. The Director of Testing for NHS Track and Trace stated that it is not a shortage of staff or swabs at testing sites that is the problem, rather it is laboratory capacity that is the ‘critical pinch point.’

The lack of tests available to be processed and analysed meant that many who were displaying symptoms were unable to access a test at all. The impact of this shortfall was that people continued to spread the virus whilst travelling long distances to a centre that could test them or, worse still, they remained untested because they were unable to access a test  – meaning those who had been in contact with an infected person were not made aware of their exposure and were increasing the risk of further spread.

The importance of testing cannot be understated in the troubling times we face. As winter approaches and cases continue to rise, there is the constant question of whether the Government’s testing capacity will be able to deal with the level of demand.

In response to the sharp increase in demand, HealthTrust Europe has carefully developed a comprehensive framework for Covid-19 testing equipment and other associated services to support organisations with their testing capabilities through the pandemic. The framework has been crafted in partnership with market-leading suppliers to ensure that associated services for point of care testing and laboratory testing methods are available to our customers, whether they are from the private or public sector. Our framework offers a compliant and secure route to accessing vital materials including laboratory equipment, consumables and all other associated point of care services, meaning our customers are able to access credible resources, as opposed to relying on unregulated, non-compliant services and suppliers.

Furthermore, our framework is competitively priced and set at fixed pricing for the duration of your contract. This means you will not experience any price increases, even when national shortages occur or demand increases. Your organisation is guaranteed to be able to access our services at all times, which can help protect your own customers and employees as we navigate the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our customers range from private and public sector organisations, including NHS Trusts and Social Care bodies. As we learned from the first wave of the virus, testing across the NHS and in the Social Care sector is absolutely fundamental. If staff in these environments are unable to access Covid-19 tests, the whole health and social care sector suffers - from a decrease in available workers, to potential exposure of the virus to patients - we now understand that testing for key workers is crucial to navigating Covid-19.

If you believe your organisation could benefit from access to our Covid-19 testing equipment framework and are interested in increasing your Covid-19 testing capacity, you can read more here. You can contact our Customer Care Specialists via phone on 0845 887 5000 or email at [email protected].

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NHE May/June 2024

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