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Investigation exposes government's ‘absolute catastrophe’ of using private firms to fight Covid-19

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme shows alleged ‘serious failings’ at medical diagnostics firm Randox and its handling of home testing kits

AN UNDERCOVER investigation has exposed the “absolute catastrophe unleashed by the government” in using private firms in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, campaigners said today.

On Monday evening Channel 4’s Dispatches programme broadcast the experience of an undercover reporter who worked at Randox, a medical diagnostics firm providing thousands of home testing kits to care homes and individuals.

It also processes tests from other suppliers.

Dispatches alleged that there were “serious failings” at Randox’s lab in Co Antrim, in the north of Ireland, with potential problems in handling samples sent from across the UK. 

The reporter claimed that there were cross-contamination, accidental discards and frequent leaks when processing samples.

However, Randox has rejected the claims, saying that staff are adequately supervised and instructed on the need to ensure “samples are correctly processed.”

In July up to 750,000 testing kits had to be recalled when spot checks revealed that kits supplied by a Chinese manufacturer and sent out by Randox were not safe.

Former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and current Conservative MP Owen Paterson currently earns £100,000 per annum working for Randox as a consultant.

Earlier this month the government awarded a new £347 million Covid-19-testing contract to the company, a six-month extension of the initial deal.

Pascale Robinson of public services campaign group We Own It said that the documentary’s revelations were “absolutely shocking.”

He said: “The private companies running our test and trace system have been putting lives at risk, while pocketing millions.

“Throughout the pandemic the government has taken a ‘jobs for the boys’ approach, handing out contracts to their mates in the private sector. This is an absolute disgrace.”

He called for the cash to be given to the NHS and to local public health teams “who have the experience and skills to deliver the system properly.”


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