NHS officials ‘screaming’ at factory chiefs for more tests: Manufacturers say they have been ‘completely overwhelmed’ by demand and cannot ‘magic ten million kits out of thin air’
- Andrew Broggio, owner of Medical Wire and Equipment Co Ltd, said it’s difficult
- He described the situation as ‘desperate’ and a challenge for his sales staff
- ‘We are under pressure from the NHS supply chain to supply them too’ he added
Desperate hospital officials have been ‘screaming and shouting’ for coronavirus testing kits, The Mail on Sunday has been told.
Andrew Broggio, the owner of Wiltshire-based Medical Wire and Equipment Co Ltd, said he has been ‘completely overwhelmed’ by demand and that he cannot ‘magic ten million kits out of thin air’.
Like other diagnostics firms across the country, Medical Wire and Equipment and its 75 employees are working around the clock to increase production of the tests for health workers and patients.
Mr Broggio, 49, said: ‘It has been desperate. There has been shouting down the phone. It has been difficult for our sales staff.
‘We are being screamed at by individual hospital trusts acquiring our product and we are also under pressure from the NHS supply chain to supply them too.
‘Screamed at’: Andrew Broggio, of Wiltshire-based Medical Wire and Equipment Co Ltd, said his staff were being shouted out down the phone
‘It has completely overwhelmed us.’
The demands come days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to increase testing tenfold to 100,000 people a day by the end of this month.
But the plan, revealed on Thursday amid growing public anger at the lack of testing, has been met with scepticism by industry leaders who say they are having to go from a standing start.
Allan Wilson, president of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences, which represents NHS lab workers, last night said widespread shortages in basic testing components were causing a headache.
Testing pledge: Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to increase testing tenfold to 100,000 people a day
‘There have been shortages in something as basic as the swabs used to take the test an the solution used to transport the tests to laboratories,’ he added.
‘We have got the staff and the platforms to do these tests – they already exist in NHS labs up and down the country – what we lack are the [chemical] reagents, the plastics, the consumables and the chemicals that we use to carry out the tests within the labs.’
Among items labs cannot get their hands on are cotton swabs used to take throat samples and the plastic tubes used to seal and send them.
Mr Wilson added: ‘That’s our frustration as biomedical scientists – we are ready to help but the supply chain has not been secured.’
Doris-Ann Williams, of the British in Vitro Diagnostics Association, said Mr Hancock had set the 100,000 target ‘without any consultation with the industry’.
Ministers are already at risk of missing a much more modest target they set in mid March, to be carrying out 25,000 tests a day by the middle of this month.
More is needed: Experts say that testing will have to hit a higher level once lockdown measures are lifted
They now have just ten days to reach it. However, the daily tally is still struggling to rise above the 10,000 mark – and yesterday it dropped below it, to just 9,406.
Experts say much higher levels of testing will be required once lockdown measures are lifted.
The Prime Minister is thought to be keen to relax some social distancing measures as early as Easter Monday, due to concern that the lockdown is causing deep damage to the economy and people’s mental health, although no decisions have yet been taken.
Medical Wire and Equipment is in high level discussions with the Ministry of Defence and Government’s advisers Deloitte to boost production during the pandemic.
On Friday, the firm despatched 100,000 kits revealing whether you currently have coronavirus for use in the NHS.
They are hoping to increase production to around 175,000 kits this week and up to 300,000 within six weeks’ time.
The test, called a Virocult, is a swab, which is used to take a sample from a patient’s throat and nose.
This is then put into a chemical cocktail contained in a 5cm-long sterile plastic tube and sent off to laboratories to be analysed.
Mr Broggio believes that he would need to triple production in order to meet demand but that his company can only manufacture component parts so fast.
He said: ‘There are limits because we need to increase the manufacture of components. We invested in capital equipment two weeks ago and I hope to have this equipment within five weeks. Everyone is pulling their finger out.’
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