Analysis Breaking

Crisis in testing for COVID and cancer caused by ‘supply chain failure’ illustrates harm of NHS privatisation

Swiss company contracted to perform tests decides to move to new warehouse – and sufferers of virus and other life-threatening illnesses put in danger

The decision of a pharmaceutical company to move to a new warehouse has put patients in danger, in a clear demonstration of the harms of NHS privatisation.

Swiss firm Roche said that problems caused by the move led to a ‘very significant’ fall in capacity – creating a backlog of tests that will take at least two weeks to resolve. The tests affected are believed to include coronavirus, cancer, sepsis and infection, as well as tests for kidney, liver and thyroid function.

At least one NHS trust has already told GPs in its area not to order any non-urgent blood tests after Roche sent out a letter telling trusts to “look to prioritise essential services only”. But the danger is not only to patients suffering cancer and other ailments: any delays to coronavirus test results and therefore any ensuing tracing could help fuel the growth of the ‘second wave’ of the pandemic.

The situation highlights the dangers of allowing critical functions to be performed by private companies, yet instead of building capacity within the NHS itself the Tories have simply enlarged and accelerated the contracts awarded to private companies.

At least Roche is a specialist in its field, but in many cases Johnson, Hancock and co have awarded contracts to their mates and backers whether they have experience or not – often without even a tendering process. On testing, the Tories have even banned local organisations and trusts from using their own efficient testing and tracing processes and forced them to use the government’s centralised and broken systems.

The Tories’ promises on the NHS and on the health of the nation continue to be lie, simply cover for more privatisation and fragmentation. The Roche catastrophe puts a spotlight on the unsuitability of the very concept of privatisation of vital health functions that should be covered by the NHS itself.

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1 comment

  1. “Supply chain failure” in a large, presumably modern, company like Roche should never happen.
    JIT is so ingrained, so ubiquitous in modern industry the rapid setup of a new facility shouldn’t cause the logistics experts to walk fast, much less run.
    There’s been massive incompetence somewhere and Roche should be held to account – unless it was the government changing its demands mid-setup that was the cause of the problem.
    Wouldn’t be the first time.

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