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Call for government to address lateral flow testing supply

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society is calling on the government to address rapid lateral flow testing supply issues amid the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Current rules in England allow anyone who has tested positive to cut their self-isolation from 10 days to seven if they have negative LFTs on days six and seven. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the self-isolation period for those who test positive remains 10 days.

The government’s policy has driven demand for LFTs in England, adding to the seasonal demand throughout the UK among those wanting to see family and friends over Christmas and the underlying testing requirements.

RPS president Professor Claire Anderson said pharmacies cannot obtain additional supplies which has resulted in some pharmacies running out of test kits.

“Pharmacists are working incredibly hard on the frontline to support the public.

“There is a limited stock of lateral flow testing kits supplied to pharmacies each day to distribute to the public. Pharmacies cannot obtain additional supplies which has resulted in some pharmacies running out of test kits.

“This is adding further pressures on pharmacy teams who are doing their very best to support and care for the public. It is understandably leaving patients upset and frustrated.

“We are calling on governments and the NHS for immediate action to ensure additional lateral flow testing kits are distributed to pharmacies to be supplied to the public as soon as possible.

“We ask that the public remain patient with pharmacists and their teams who are already dealing with increased workload of medicines supply during the holiday season’’

A UKHSA spokesperson said during periods of exceptional demand there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests, to ensure the distribution across the system and support changing requirements for LFD and PCR tests.

Reduced postal schedules also impact on delivery capacity over the Christmas period.

“The UK’s testing programme is the biggest in Europe with almost 400 million tests carried out since the start of the pandemic.

“We are delivering record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies across the country, with almost 8 million test kits being made available to pharmacies between today and New Year’s Eve.

“We have made 100,000 more PCR booking slots available per day since mid-December and we are continuing to rapidly expand capacity – with over half a million tests carried out on 23 December alone and delivery capacity doubled to 900,000 PCR and LFD test kits a day.

“If you have not been able to get the test you need from gov.uk, please keep checking every few hours as more PCR and LFD tests become available every day.”

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