By Karim El-Bar
LONDON (AA) – An error at a COVID-19 testing lab that saw thousands of people told they tested negative when they were positive could have led to the deaths of 20 people, according to an investigation by the UK health authorities.
The incident occurred at the Immensa Health Clinic lab in Wolverhampton, central-west England, where 39,000 PCR tests that should have showed positive test results were instead given out as negative between Sept. 2 and Oct. 12, 2021.
Those impacted were mainly in the southwest of England, with many people as a result not self-isolating.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) estimated that this error led to around 55,000 additional infections, 680 additional hospitalizations that would not have otherwise occurred, and around 20 additional deaths.
The UK National Health Service suspended testing services from Immensa in October 2021 after reports of inaccurate results.
The Health Security Agency said the error occurred because the threshold levels for reporting positive and negative results were incorrect.
Richard Gleave, the UKHSA director and lead investigator, said: “We have concluded that staff errors within Immensa’s Wolverhampton laboratory were the immediate cause of the incorrect reporting of COVID-19 PCR test results in September and October 2021.
“It is our view that there was no single action that NHS (National Health Service) Test and Trace could have taken differently to prevent this error arising in the private laboratory.”
Gleave added that the Health Security Agency’s report set out clear recommendations to reduce the risk of incidence like this happening again.
UKHSA chief executive Jenny Harries said: “I fully accept the findings and recommendations made in this report, many of which were implemented as soon as UKHSA discovered the incident.
“These ongoing improvements will enhance our ability to spot problems sooner where they do arise.”