Whistleblowers reveal chaotic working conditions at lab behind Covid testing fiasco

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The whistleblower of a COVID lab that sent thousands of false test results across England sheds new light on the site’s chaotic working conditions, revealing how machines were poorly maintained, quality control was defied And untrained workers were regularly “left to their own devices”.

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A source said samples from the privately-operated Wolverhampton Lab, owned by Immensa Health Clinic, were incorrectly processed or cross-contaminated, leading to inaccurate test results, while faulty air conditioning and fluctuating humidity levels within the site kept them up, a source said. The lows also led to poor tests.

Another said the focus was on “quality over quantity”, with staff – many who had never worked in a lab before – under pressure from senior management executives to process as many tests as possible each day. .

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Under these conditions, minor mistakes were not noticed and allowed to “add up”, one whistleblower said, with “human error” being responsible for most of the 43,000 false negative tests processed for NHS Tests. is likely to. And trace between 8 September to 12 October.

Sources from both Immensa’s parent company Dante Labs and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said similarly Granthshala That human error – rather than technical failures – was to blame.

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UKHSA has suspended all work at the lab as it continues to investigate the facilities at the University of Wolverhampton Science Park. However, it emerged this week that private travel tests are still being processed by Immensa and Dante Labs at their lab in Charnwood, Loughborough.

Dr Mark Atkins of Micropathology Ltd, a leading UK laboratory serving more than 200 hospitals across the country, said the Wolverhampton lab was “dangerous” and, in non-Covid times, would have closed. “The government needs to take responsibility for this; It is handing out lakhs in contracts,” he said.

Immensa, which was only set up in May 2020, has been awarded nearly £170m of taxpayer money for COVID testing contracts during the pandemic. Other testing companies that have been entrusted with lucrative deals by the government have been hit by similar scams in the past 18 months.

Dr Simon Clark, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said the claim that untrained workers were “left to their own devices” when preparing and processing samples was particularly concerning.

“I’ve done this technique, I’ve taught it to people,” he said. “It’s a very temperamental technique. It’s easy to get it wrong and get into a situation where it doesn’t work very well. You need proper guidance first.”

One of the whistleblowers, who worked in the lab during the summer but later left, said the new recruits “were not really told what to do” and that they had to learn the techniques involved in processing tests. Never provided a training manual or program to help.

Typically, samples are taken from swabs that are sent to the laboratory and placed in tubes that contain a solution of chemicals that will make multiple copies of the virus’ genetic material, if any are present. The tubes for the procedure must be placed on a heating block which is the core of the PCR machine. After that, the solution is tested for any genetic material.

The source said 96 samples were processed during each “run”. In an hour, employees were expected to perform six runs, or about 600 tests. “It’s pretty high throughput,” said Dr. Clark. “To do it accurately, I need 20 to 30 minutes for each run, without any distractions.”

The whistleblower said there was no consistency in the methods used by the staff, a “large portion” of whom were directly out of university and had no experience in laboratory work. “They were hiring a lot of new employees to make up the numbers,” he said. “When you have an influx like this, it’s not easy to teach people to use machinery quickly.”

The source said these inexperienced or poorly trained workers were “left to their own devices” to operate the machines and, as a result, made mistakes without rectification. Some employees were reportedly seen to cross-contaminate samples or put them in the wrong PCR machine – both of which can lead to false results.


People should not handle infectious material in this type of environment

Dr. Mark Colery of Micropathology Ltd.

Machines provided by the diagnostics company PerkinElmer were poorly maintained and often broke down due to overuse.

“When they weren’t working, it took them a while to recover. If a machine breaks down, it makes things worse,” said the source. Charnwood’s lab runs a maintenance protocol for each machine prior to the start of each shift to detect potential issues, the source said, but this was not practiced in Wolverhampton. Instead, “they were running it only once a week”.

The whistleblower said the air conditioning and humidity controls sometimes break. “Everything requires temperature control, so if the temperature fluctuates inside the lab due to poor air conditioning or air regulation, it will affect the test results.”

The Lab was kept cool by two large industrial air conditioning units, which were plugged into an extension socket lead. This meant that the machines “sometimes could not handle the load” and would become overwhelmed, causing them to break down.

Employees attempted to raise their concerns over working conditions, quality control measures and high throughput, but were reportedly turned down by senior management executives, some of whom had no scientific background. They were also predominantly Italian and spoke very little English, which at times made communication difficult.

“Sometimes when we asked a question, we looked a little naughty,” the source said. “Essentially because of timing, they wanted to get as many samples as possible.”

The whistleblower said the language barrier hindered new employees’ ability to learn on the job, but stressed that there were some members of management who were meticulous…

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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