UK's biggest Covid testing lab 'prioritising Premiership Rugby stars'

Britain’s biggest Covid testing lab ‘is prioritising private work over NHS patients after signing contracts to test Premiership Rugby stars and travellers to Dubai while missing targets for public’

  • Randox Laboratories in Northern Ireland is reportedly favouring rugby starts 
  • Staff claimed tests from rugby players and travellers to Dubai are given priority 
  • The lab is responsible for a quarter of all community tests across the UK 

Britain’s biggest Covid-19 testing lab is prioritising Premiership Rugby stars and travellers to Dubai, company insiders have claimed. 

Randox Laboratories in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, reportedly also regularly fails to provide test results within 24 hours to members of the public. 

The lab is responsible for a quarter of all community tests across the UK after winning a £133 million contract in March. 

Randox Laboratories in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland is prioritising Premiership Rugby stars and travellers to Dubai, company insiders have claimed

Randox completed fewer than one in 10 tests on time on September 9 and has also been forced to throw away more tests than any other lab due to human error, according to a report in the Sunday Times citing leaked documents. 

Staff alleged that tests from rugby players and coaching staff are given ‘priority status’ and are flown by helicopter to Antrim every week, with results usually available by 9am the next day. 

It is claimed that those travelling to Dubai receive similar special treatment. On September 2, Randox said it was ‘delighted’ to sign a new deal to screen airline passengers to Dubai. 

It came on the same day 12,401 tests were voided without explanation. 

Sources told the publication that the Northern Irish laboratory is unable to process tests quick enough after taking on too much work. 

The firm is said be having major staffing problems – with 35,000 tests voided since the start of August. 

The company, based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, is said to be blaming leaks, damaged tubes and people sending urine rather than saliva, as the reason for voiding the tests. 

In July, Randox was forced to recall half a million test kits after checks revealed they were not sterile. 

Randox Laboratories was founded by Dr Peter FitzGerald in 1982 and currently employs more than 1,500 people. Dr Fitzgerald pictured above 

The laboratory continues to play a key role in Covid-19 testing ahead of an anticipated second wave of cases. 

Despite its alleged struggles, Randox is taking on commercial testing contracts and is reportedly currently in negotiations with Boots. 

Randox Laboratories was founded by Dr Peter FitzGerald in 1982 and currently employs more than 1,500 people, with offices in Brazil, America and India among others. 

The lab employs Conservative MP Owen Paterson as a consultant for £100,000 a year which easily surpasses his salary as an MP. 

Paterson has previously lobbied the government on behalf of the company. Randox has insisted its relationship with Mr Paterson had no role in it winning the multimillion contract from the government.

It has also denied priotitising commercial contracting. 

‘Randox takes great care in meeting all its contractual obligations and fully recognises the critical importance of meeting those obligations with regard to the national testing programme,’ the firm said in a statement. 

It comes amid growing anger over the Government’s testing ‘shambles’, as centres across the UK are facing huge queues and a backlog of people 

‘Randox does not prioritise commercial work ahead of other work streams. We do not comment on commercial matters. We do not have a practice of voiding high numbers of test kits on a daily basis.

‘On average the Randox void rate is comparable across the programme.’

It comes amid growing anger over the Government’s testing ‘shambles’, as centres across the UK are facing huge queues and a backlog of people. 

Parents in Bolton and Hull have complained of struggling to get tests for their children who have been sent home from school ‘with a runny nose’.

Meanwhile, others have reported driving for two hours from West Sussex only to be turned away without a test and even being told to make a 280-mile round trip from Durham to Edinburgh.

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