600 million lateral flow tests may have gone unused in England, says watchdog


lmost 600 million quick-result tests might have gone unused after only 14% of those handed out were registered with Test and Trace, according to the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has found that, since mass testing was rolled out by NHS Test and Trace (NHS T&T) in October, just 96 million of the 691 million Covid-19 tests distributed in England have been registered.

Labour called the findings “damning” and said it was “astounding” that 595 million tests had gone unaccounted for.

Ministers had hoped the expansion of lateral flow tests, which can return results within 30 minutes, would help people to return to workplaces, with tests available to order online or pick up from local pharmacies.

According to the NAO’s ‘Test and Trace in England – progress update’ report published on Friday, Test and Trace bosses had forecasted that between March and May this year 655 million lateral-flow tests would be used in the UK.

While almost 700 million have been given out in England, the watchdog said “only a small proportion of the tests distributed have been registered as used”.

“NHS T&T does not know whether the tests that have not been registered have been used or not,” the progress report, which covers November 2020 to April 2021, said.

“It has started a programme of research to understand why the registration of test results is so low and is working to increase public awareness of the need to register results and improve its ability to track tests.”

Gareth Davies the head of the NAO, said the lack of registrations was a “pressing challenge” that needed addressing.

“Since we last reported in December, NHS Test and Trace has introduced a lot of changes, including mass testing, closer working with local authorities and initiatives to identify and contain variant forms of Covid-19,” the Comptroller and Auditor General said.


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