Covid testing: What to do if you've been given the wrong PCR result

15 October 2021, 11:38

The UK Health Security Agency has said 43,000 negative Covid test results could be incorrect
The UK Health Security Agency has said 43,000 negative Covid test results could be incorrect. Picture: Getty

By James Morris

An estimated 43,000 people may have been given incorrect negative coronavirus test results, the UK Health Security Agency has said.

NHS Test and Trace has suspended testing operations provided by Immensa Health Clinic at its lab in Wolverhampton, following an investigation into reports of people receiving negative PCR test results after previously testing positive on lateral flow devices.

The suspected errors relate to test results given to people between 8 September and 12 October.

Here is what to do if you think you may have been given an incorrect result.

Where are people affected?

Most of the suspected incorrect PCR test results apply to people in the South West of England.

However, people in the South East and Wales are also affected.

The Welsh government said about 4,000 people have been impacted, mainly from the Gwent and Cwm Taf Morgannwg areas.

What should these people do?

They don't need to do anything for now, apart from look out for a call from Test and Trace.

The service is currently contacting the people who could still be infectious and "advising them to take another test".

What about their close contacts?

The Health Security Agency said contacts "who are symptomatic will also be advised to take a test in line with normal practice".

Is there an issue with the lateral flow and PCR tests?

No. There is no evidence of technical problems with the test kits themselves.

Dr Will Welfare, public health incident director at the Health Security Agency, said it is instead a "laboratory technical issue" on the part of Immensa which led to the inaccurate results being handed out.

What is Immensa's background in Covid testing?

The government awarded Immensa a £119m contract in October last year to urgently "develop volume for PCR testing for Covid in line with test and trace requirements", the contract shows.

The contract did not go to tender under rules allowing urgent responses to the pandemic.

Read more: Cheaper lateral flow tests to replace PCR swabs for tourists in half-term holiday boost

According to the Immensa website, the firm was new to Covid testing.

It said: "In 2020, we adapted and evolved into Covid-19 testing, taking advantage of our laboratory network, scientific expertise, and digital systems to deliver world-leading Covid-19 testing solutions."