“Critical” shortage of coronavirus test component means some London hospitals are running out within DAYS
NHS trusts in London are facing a “critical shortage” of coronavirus testing that prevents them from monitoring patients “within days”, according to an internal email from MailOnline.
The urgent message, sent on Friday, tells doctors and nurses that the remaining tests should only be reserved for those who receive treatment and should not be used by personnel who have symptoms of the disease.
The NHS has ramped up testing capacity to over 10,000 a day as the government struggles to stem the UK’s outbreak.
Michael Gove told NHS that they could start testing their staff for the virus over the weekend. But this email, which was sent hours before his announcement, suggests that there may not be enough supplies to do this.
MailOnline asked whether the reagent shortage situation has improved since Friday, but received no response.
The urgent message warns of a “critical shortage” of the reagent used in coronavirus testing
London North West Hospital Trust, which manages Northwick Park Hospital (pictured), is one of those who received the email
The internal email, which was sent to hospital staff, including those managed by London North West University Healthcare (LNWH), reads, “There is currently a critical shortage of the reagent used in Covid-19 tests.
“As with other trusts in London, if the current number of tests continues, we may be out of tests within a few days. It is essential that we reserve Covid-19 tests for patients who need them most.
“Currently, the only people to be tested are: patients with suspected Covid-19 hospitalized; Those who are already in the hospital and develop new symptoms that are compatible with Covid-19.
“Please note that there are no circumstances in which people who do not meet these criteria should be tested: this currently includes personnel.”
Worldwide, demand for the critical reagent has suddenly risen as countries follow WHO’s advice and try to test as many citizens as possible.
It is used to extract nucleic acids from smears from potential coronavirus patients, an essential part of the test that allows laboratories to determine whether they have the disease.
The chemical is not specific to testing for COVID-19 and is also used in the diagnosis of a range of other diseases, including influenza-induced flu.
The Northwick Park hospital declared an emergency last week when it ran out of intensive care beds to treat coronavirus patients. The incident was terminated after 24 hours
An NHS employee takes a cotton swab from a driver at the coronavirus testing facility at Chessington World of Adventures in Greater London
LNWH manages Northwick Park hospital, which declared an emergency for several hours last week when all hospital beds were filled with coronavirus patients.
Nurses and doctors at the trust, who were forced to carry trash bags on their heads due to a lack of protective equipment, have called on them to test for the disease so they can protect their families.
The shortage of equipment has also led to nurses being asked to share surgical face masks. This means that if someone has contracted the virus, there is an increased risk that it can be passed on to colleagues.
Employees said they felt “abandoned” and as if they were compromised by trust because “we are replaceable.”
A nurse said that she was unable to approach her children while working in the coronavirus department, and that she should teach them how to take care of themselves and prepare meals.
The Royal Free NHS hospital, which also suffers from a shortage of protective equipment, is in the same network of laboratories as LNWH, which means it can also suffer from a shortage of coronavirus tests
The government has told hospitals to vastly increase the country’s testing capacity by identifying ‘hub labs’, in addition to those offered by Public Health England, which should be able to run ‘at minimum capacity, 500 tests per day’ .
Which NHS trusts may use the same testing laboratories as LNWH?
For coronavirus testing, the government has asked hospital pathology groups to identify their own hub testing lab. The hospitals listed below are in the same group as LNWH and may therefore also experience reagent shortages.
It is not clear whether these hospitals, excluding LNWH, also have their own test facilities
– Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust
– Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
– North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust
– The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
– Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
– University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
– West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust
– London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust
– NHS Trust in East and North Hertfordshire
They have been instructed to achieve this through their NHS Pathology Network partnership with other trusts, to identify a single hub.
LNWH is a member of the London Two Pathology Network, which also includes the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the Royal Free London Hospital and West Hertfordshire Hospitals.
The email seems to suggest that affected hospitals may have to sacrifice patient testing if they want to follow government advice last night, saying that NHS staff should now also be tested for coronavirus if they show symptoms or live with people who have symptoms. The tests will be offered on the frontline first
Speaking at the government press briefing at 5:00 pm, Michael Gove said, “These tests will be tested for people on the front line who start immediately, and hundreds will take place by the end of the weekend – scale up dramatically next week.”
The British Medical Association said the move was “highly anticipated.”
The UK has ordered a further 3.5 million test kits for the country, although it is unclear when they will arrive. They will also need to be tested by Public Health England to verify their accuracy before being rolled out to the public.
The Department of Health declined to comment when MailOnline contacted her.
The LNWH did not respond to a MailOnline request for comment.
Public health England declines to comment.