Wednesday 10 June 2020 7:33 pm

Pathologists warn UK coronavirus testing needs 'urgent' improvement

Issues with the UK’s coronavirus testing system must be “urgently addressed”, the Royal College of Pathologists has warned.

In an intervention reported by the Financial Times, the college said the government had relied on setting numerical targets rather than laying out a clinical strategy.

Read more: UK statistics watchdog hits out at government use of coronavirus testing data

The government has come under fire for its approach to coronavirus testing after stopping community testing early on in the outbreak.

Earlier this month, the UK Statistics Authority chairman Sir David Norgrove said the way the government was analysing and presenting the testing data had “limited value”.

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“It is also hard to believe the statistics work to support the testing programme itself. The statistics and analysis serve neither purpose well,” he added.

In a report shared with the FT, the college warns there is a range of issues that need to be addressed. These include the slow turnaround of coronavirus test results, a failure to inform doctors when patients test positive for the virus and workforce shortages.

Jo Martin, president of the Royal College of Pathologists and professor of pathology at Queen Mary University said: “The secretary of state has announced testing targets, but we would like to see this as part of an overall clinical strategy. We have tried to provide that larger blueprint”.

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Additionally, the Royal College raised questioned the longevity of the three “mega-labs” which were set up with equipment borrowed from university departments and did not pass through the usual accreditation process. Professor Martin said: “That was short-cut for the purposes of pragmatism in the context of the epidemic”.

Read more: Government misses testing target for fourth consecutive day

The report noted that an improvement in the turnaround time for the coronavirus tests, will require a “ramp-up in the volume of technology and skilled staff”.

Among organisations supporting the report are Public Health England, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, the FT reported.

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