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NHS coronavirus tests threatened by Roche supply chain disruption

Fears that people trying to get tested for Covid-19 will face further delays have been raised by revelations of shortages of supplies from the diagnostics company Roche because of problems at its warehouse.

Roche, the major provider of swabs and reagents to the Lighthouse labs, said it had experienced a “very significant drop” in its processing capacity due to a problem with its new Sussex distribution centre, which went live in September.

The problems arose during the handover of supplies from its existing warehouse to the new facility.

Labs were reporting shortages of reagents in September, but in response to questions from the Guardian, Roche was adamant at the time that there had been no cut in the supplies coming to the UK from the US.

Instead, it appears the problem has been a logjam at the new warehouse, delaying supplies being shipped to the labs that need them. The shortages are said to include swabs, screening kits and reagents.

In addition to providing these chemicals and parts used in Covid-19 tests, Roche also provides materials for a wide range of procedures including blood and urine tests, as well as diabetic care. Routine screening of blood samples taken at GP practices and in hospitals may have to be rationed until the issues are sorted out.

In a statement, the company said it was doing all it could to keep the crucial Covid testing materials flowing to labs and test centres, but warned that the problems might not be resolved for two to three weeks.

“We are prioritising the dispatch of Covid-19 PCR and antibody tests, and are doing everything we can to ensure there is no impact on the supply of these to the NHS. Roche pharmaceuticals are not affected,” it said.

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