The government has been accused of changing the way it counted the number of covid-19 tests carried out to hit their self-imposed target of 100,000 test per day by the end of April.
According to HSJ reports the count was previously tallied once the sample had been processed in laboratories, but this definition has changed in the last few days.
The Department of Health and Social Care is now including tests that have been posted or delivered to people’s homes in its figures.
This means tests which are sent to people are counted before the recipient has provided and returned their sample to a laboratory.
EXCLUSIVE: The government has changed how it counts covid-19 tests to boost figures over 100,000 target, a senior source has told @HSJnews— Nicholas Carding (@ncarding) May 1, 2020
Tests sent to people’s homes now included, rather than upon processing in a lab.
Free to read: https://t.co/oFy8upEZiY pic.twitter.com/7Y1GO9ZQJs
Health Secretary Matt Hancock celebrated an “incredible achievement” in today’s press briefing as he announced the government had hit its testing target.
He said 122,347 tests were performed in the 24 hours up to 9am on Friday, adding that testing would help “unlock” the lockdown.
But guidance on the official Government website appears to have changed in the days before the testing deadline.
In the days prior to April 28, there was no reference to how tests were counted.
But on April 28, the guidance said the count included: “(i) test conducted with a result and (ii) test posted to an individual at home.”
On April 30, the page stated that the number of tests includes “tests processed through our labs (and) tests sent to individuals at home or to satellite testing locations”.
We’ve wanted to see more testing. But a big figure is not a strategy. We need fundamentals of infectious disease control in place – finding cases, contact tracing and isolation.— Jonathan Ashworth (@JonAshworth) May 1, 2020
And ministers should have been honest. Promise was UK would *carry out* tests not just post them out. https://t.co/SHsjZ3c5KU
HSJ understands around 27,000 home tests were posted to people yesterday as part of pillar two work. They will form part of today’s testing figures which are yet to be published.
HSJ’s source said: “The view is that is unsustainable. It was just a massive one-day mission on the part of Amazon and the Royal Mail”.
But Prof John Newton, National Coordinator of the UK Coronavirus Testing Programme, responded: “There’s been no change to the way tests are counted.
“As we’ve developed new ways of delivering tests we’ve taken advice from officials as to how they should be counted.
“The tests done within the control of the programme, which is the great majority, are counted when the tests are undertaken within our laboratories.
“But for any test which goes outside the control of the programme they are counted when they leave the programme.
“So that’s the tests which are mailed out to people at home and the tests which go out in the satellites.
“So that’s the way they are counted, have always been counted and the way we were advised to count them by officials.”
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