NHS lab network undergoes rapid private expansion amid performance issues

Last week’s announcement by Matt Hancock of an expansion of the government’s ‘mega lab’ Lighthouse project – set up earlier this year by the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) to meet the demand for fast-turnaround covid-19 test results – has only added to concerns that a parallel network of pathology labs, run by private contractors at public expense and bypassing existing NHS facilities, is being established.

At a press conference on 16 November the health secretary told reporters that two new mega labs would open early next year – one in Leamington Spa, the other at an unidentified location in Scotland – in the process doubling the UK’s PCR swab-testing capacity and creating 4,000 jobs. Hancock offered no details regarding the cost of the new labs, or any indication of who might manage them.

And unlike the ‘pop up’ Nightingale hospitals, Hancock claimed that, “[The labs] will represent a permanent part of the UK’s new diagnostics industry… [giving] our country a permanent defence that we need for any future epidemic.”

Full story in The Lowdown, 24 November 2020

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