Health professionals in the North East share concerns with shortage of lateral flow tests

Health professionals in the North East have spoken over the concerns over the shortage of lateral flow tests and PCR tests in the UK.

A pharmacy in Wallsend was expecting a delivery this morning - but it didn't arrive.

Pharmacist Chris Forster said: "Come Christmas week it's just gone pear-shaped. We're only allowed the one box so they've all gone by lunchtime and then sometimes they don't come in when we order them and certainly they haven't come in this morning.

"It's every other customer and they're coming in probably twenty, thirty, forty an hour asking for lateral flows."

The UK Health Security Agency said tests ordered through the Government website may also be temporarily unavailable due to high demand. It urged people to keep checking the site, and not to order unnecessarily.

Amid these concerns, one Northumberland GP offered this advice. Dr Ben Burville said: "Anyone, obviously, with symptoms needs to get a PCR and people need to keep theirmixing to sensible levels.

"I'm not saying don't mix with people but I'm saying optimise the opportunities to be outside if you can when you're mixing. if you are inside, ventilate, ventilate, ventilate and if you can do a lateral flow test before you meet up with someone, especially if they are potentially vulnerable, then do one."

What we know so far about the shortage of lateral flow tests:

Has demand for lateral flow tests gone up?

In short, yes. The government has urged the country to regularly take lateral flow tests - repeating their advice particularly in the run up to Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Official guidance suggests individuals take a test on days when mixing with others indoors, and tells people to swab daily if they've been in contact with someone who has the virus.

The change in isolation rules in England (reducing quarantine time from 10 days to seven for people with Covid) also relies on getting two negative lateral flow results on days six and seven.

There are concerns without access to lateral flow tests key workers, including those in the NHS, will be unable to return to work after seven days of isolation.

Are there enough lateral flow tests to meet demand?

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said nearly 900,000 test kits are being provided per day - double the supply seen before December 18.

As pressure mounted on Wednesday, official word from the government finally came via Tory MP Sir Roger Gale who relayed that the health secretary had confirmed a global shortage was impacting supply to the UK.

Sir Roger told the PA news agency: "Saj was very honest with me, he said, ‘look, there isn’t a quick fix’."

It confirms what Leyla Hannbeck, boss of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, had warned on Wednesday morning - describing supply as "patchy" and not enough to meet demand.

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The health secretary has acknowledged a global shortage of lateral flow and PCR tests is currently impacting the UK, after health leaders voiced concerns over low and "inconsistent" supplies.

Earlier in the day pharmacy bosses had warned getting hold of lateral flow tests was becoming a "huge" problem, with people requesting them every five minutes over the Christmas period.

Labour has urged the government to fix the situation, describing it as a "shambles".

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