Staff at pharmacies are facing a wave of abuse from frustrated customers who are still unable to get their hands on free lateral flow tests, a health industry chief has today warned
Staff at pharmacies are facing a wave of abuse from frustrated customers who are still unable to get their hands on free lateral flow tests, a health industry chief has today warned.
Some Britons claim they have been unable to get hold of lateral flow tests at their local pharmacies for up to ‘two weeks’ due to a supply shortage of the swab tests.
The issue — said to be sparked by distribution problems in the Government’s free testing programme — has led to people being unable to order tests online at various points.
Some pharmacies have also been forced to put up signs warning customers they have no more free tests.
With supplies still said to be ‘patchy’, pharmacy bosses are warning that staff are facing ‘unfair’ and ‘abusive’ behaviour by customers who are unable to pick up testing kits.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMP), told MailOnline: ‘Up until yesterday the supply to pharmacies were still patchy.The past few days the situation has no improved.
‘Pharmacies are having to put up with a lot of abuse and aggressive behaviours by members of the public because of this situation which is unfair.
‘The demand is still very high now because the governments guidelines put a lot of emphasis on testing as a key out of self isolation, so naturally as Omicron cases are high people are reliant on tests to get on with daily life.’
Dr Hannbeck’s comments come as, in other developments today:
- Boris Johnson is meeting ministers to take stock after declaring that the government will stick to existing restrictions, while warning it is ‘folly’ to think the pandemic is over;
- The PM has rejected calls to cut the Covid isolation period again to five days, saying doing so could make the staffing crisis even worse;
- Vaccines minister Maggie Throup has played down concerns about a fall in the numbers getting booster jabs suggesting it will rise again after the festive period;
- Hospital admissions for Covid in London fell for the first time since before Omicron took off, spurring hopes that the worst of the wave may have peaked;
- Britons shouldn’t be offered a fourth Covid jab until there is more evidence, according to the head of the country’s vaccine body, who warned dishing out vaccines every six months was ‘not sustainable’;
- Pre-return Covid international travel tests are expected to be scrapped tomorrow.
Some pharmacies have been forced to put up signs warning customers they have no more free tests because of the shortages (pictured: Library image)
Dr Hannbeck, meanwhile, insists pharmacies are still the ‘right place to distribute’ lateral flow tests.
She added: ‘They are very accessible and also in hard to reach communities — and for people who cannot go online such as the elderly and those who don’t have access to internet pharmacies are the best option.
Speaking about the situation, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told MailOnline: ‘Up until yesterday the supply to pharmacies were still patchy.
‘In addition, we can monitor the supply in that we can ensure controlled supply.’
Dr Hannbeck’s comments come as it emerged yesterday that the company given sole responsibility for search ebaymotors.com parts & accessories distributing lateral flow tests to pharmacies by the Government shut down for four days over the festive period — just after it received 2.5 million tests.
Pharmacists have blamed Alliance Healthcare for being verbally abused after they ‘closed down for Christmas’.
A boss of the company supplying lateral flow Covid tests refused to comment because he just came back from holiday.
Pablo Rivas, who is Chief Operating Officer at Alliance Healthcare UK, the sole distributor of LFTs to pharmacies around the country, said he did not know about the testing crisis because he had just returned from ‘somewhere nice’.
Asked if the Government were aware that the firm had planned to close for some of the festive period, he said all enquiries had to go through the press office, but he added: ‘I just came back from holiday so I really don’t know that much at the moment.We are having to quarantine now.’
A spokesman for Alliance Healthcare later confirmed that the Government were aware that the company intended to shut down for four days on December 25.
An Alliance Healthcare spokesperson said: ‘Alliance Healthcare published its Christmas Bank Holiday opening hours on its website on 26 November.The UKHSA were aware of the planned closure and the PSNC communicated out multiple times to pharmacies.
Millions of people have been struggling to get LFTs online — but some have trying to sell the packs given them to free by the Government, all paid for by the taxpayer
‘During the week commencing 20 December, Alliance Healthcare distributed around 9 million lateral flow tests to community pharmacies in the UK.Of these nearly half were delivered on the pharmacy’s next delivery (Alliance Healthcare delivers lateral flow tests as part of its daily delivery service) and the rest delivered over the following 2 days, all within the 72-hour delivery time agreed with the UKHSA.
‘UKHSA delivery into Alliance Healthcare takes place throughout the day to its 11 service centres in the UK.Of the 2.3 million lateral flow tests that we received on 24 December, over 1 million of these were distributed on the same day. In total we distributed 2 million lateral flow tests on December 24.
Pablo Rivas, who is Chief Operating Officer at Alliance Healthcare UK, the sole distributor of LFTs to pharmacies around the country, said he did not know about the testing crisis because he had just returned from ‘somewhere nice’
‘Alliance Healthcare resumed distribution on 29 December when community pharmacies, the majority of which were also closed over the Christmas period, re-opened and a further 2 million lateral flow tests have since been distributed.
‘Alliance Healthcare continues to support community pharmacy and has delivered over 280 million lateral flow kits since the start of the Pharmacy Collect scheme.We are continuing to support the NHS and its efforts to fight COVID-19 , and to distribute over 10 million lateral flow tests per week, to support the continued demand; millions more than originally planned with the UKHSA.’
It comes as Britons today continued to face issues in getting hold of lateral flow tests.
One claimed she had been unable to access a test for ‘over two weeks.Lesley Tarling wrote on Twitter: ‘No lateral flow test available in my area.
‘My local pharmacies haven’t had them for over two weeks, so those people who have been mixing over Christmas can’t test before going out and about.’
Another Twitter user wrote: ‘So you are advised to lateral flow test periodically by the Government and Boris Johnson, however I’ve tried nearly eight pharmacies in Telford and none of them have stock!
One pharmacy, Elora Pharmacy, in Benfleet, Essex, also urged customers to be understanding with its staffing, writing on Twitter: ‘There are still some supply issues with lateral flow tests, and we ask for your patience and understanding towards our staff at this time.
‘Many of the issues are outside of our control and we really do appreciate people’s co-operation. Thank you.’
<div class="art-ins mol-factbox news floatRHS" data-version="2" id="mol-67bb3c00-6d5e-11ec-b9e0-d1320d48061e" website staff 'facing abuse' over lack of lateral flow tests