Pharmacies have been flooded with requests for lateral flow tests, with providers reportedly receiving requests for the tests ‘every five minutes’ during the Christmas period.
Updated government guidance on testing and self-isolation in the midst of the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus has meant that there is now high demand for test kits at home, reports the PA news agency.
The executive director of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, Leyla Hannbeck, has said that patients are often unable to find the Covid-19 tests in pharmacies due to low and ‘inconsistent’ supplies.
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She added that the current daily influx of 900,000 tests has not met the high demand.
In a speech on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Mrs Hannbeck said: “What our members are telling us is that the demand for lateral flow tests is very high at the moment due to the current guidelines on self-insulation.
“Pharmacies report that about every five minutes someone comes into the pharmacy and asks for a test.
“But unfortunately, because the problems surrounding the supply are uneven and inconsistent, it means that those who come to the test do not always get it, which is very stressful not only for the pharmacy team but for the patient.
“The scale of the problem is huge because the demand is high due to the current guidelines.
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“People do it responsibly by wanting to be tested, and we’re in the realm of the Christmas season, and the New Year is just around the corner, and people want to be with family and friends.”
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said nearly 900,000 test kits a day are being delivered – which is double the range seen before December 18 – but Mrs Hannbeck said deliveries have been “unstable”.
Ms Hannbeck told Today: “It is simply not enough to meet demand and it is incoherent.
“Some days you get one box delivered and other days none. It is not enough for pharmacies to deliver to patients. ”
She added: “We want to ensure that the message is clear to the government that supply must be consistent.”
The UKHSA has said tests may be temporarily unavailable on the government website at times during the day due to “unusually high demand” and urged people not to order more tests before using the ones they have.
A spokesman said: “During periods of extraordinary demand, there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests to ensure we manage distribution across the system and support changing requirements for LFD and PCR tests.
“Reduced postage times also affect delivery capacity during the Christmas period.
“Quick tests are available for ordering directly to people’s homes via gov.uk, and availability is updated regularly throughout the day.
“We encourage people to visit the site again every few hours if they are unable to book tests, as more will be available – and to make sure they make use of the tests they already have at home before they order or collect more. “