Home Travel Government-approved PCR provider claims firms are being left to self-regulate

Government-approved PCR provider claims firms are being left to self-regulate

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British travel PCR test providers are operating unregulated despite the Government promising to crackdown on ‘cowboy’ firms, it was claimed today.

The medical director of DAM Health, one of the UK’s largest providers, said the company has had to resort to self-regulation due to a lack of guidance from officials.

Professor Frank Joseph, whose firm has more than 40 clinics across the UK, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Unfortunately there’s no regulation for us and we would welcome it.

‘We’ve had conversations with local councillors in Liverpool to say “look you know there is no regulation but we have to self-regulate”.’  

He admitted there were ‘no check ups’ at any of DAM’s clinics and nothing in place to verify that tests have been properly processed.

It comes despite Sajid Javid promising that the Department of Health was clamping down private firms. 

Just 2 per cent of firms have been struck off the Government’s approved list so far despite a review finding that a fifth were peddling false claims and charging extortionate prices.  

The medical director of DAM Health, one of the UK's largest providers, said the company has had to resort to self-regulation due to a lack of guidance from officials. Professor Frank Joseph, whose firm has more than 40 clinics across the UK, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'Unfortunately there’s no regulation for us and we would welcome it'

The medical director of DAM Health, one of the UK’s largest providers, said the company has had to resort to self-regulation due to a lack of guidance from officials. Professor Frank Joseph, whose firm has more than 40 clinics across the UK, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Unfortunately there’s no regulation for us and we would welcome it’

The Government requires international travellers arriving in England to test before travel, and on arrival in the UK. Pictured: a medic conducting a PCR test at one of DAM's clinics

The Government requires international travellers arriving in England to test before travel, and on arrival in the UK. Pictured: a medic conducting a PCR test at one of DAM’s clinics

British holidaymakers could be paying 20 times more than the 'fair' price for PCR Covid tests required for travel abroad, it has been revealed. Graphic shows: The step-by-step process of a PCR test

British holidaymakers could be paying 20 times more than the ‘fair’ price for PCR Covid tests required for travel abroad, it has been revealed. Graphic shows: The step-by-step process of a PCR test

Travellers have been left livid after prices for the tests rocketed despite poor service from many of the 400-plus government-approved companies.

The Government requires international travellers arriving in England to test before travel, and on arrival in the UK.

The number of tests that are needed is dependent on your arrival from either a green or amber country or your vaccination status. Arrivals from red countries must still use quarantine hotel facilities.

Piled high: A Randox drop-off bin earlier this month in London filled with uncollected PCR tests, showing the demand in the privately-run holiday testing system

Piled high: A Randox drop-off bin earlier this month in London filled with uncollected PCR tests, showing the demand in the privately-run holiday testing system

To help travellers with the process, the Government website features a list of test providers which travellers can use.

But a recent Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) review discovered they were displaying lower prices on the gov.uk site, which lists a variety of providers who are available, than people would have to pay in reality once they get to the checkout.

It highlighted 82 private travel testing firms who are to be issued with a two-strike warning and could be struck off the official gov.uk list.

Companies will be removed from the website list if they fail to take action within three days of strike one as part of the new two-strike policy.

A further 57 firms are set to be removed from the list either because they no longer exist or do not provide the necessary tests.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it is ‘absolutely unacceptable’ for companies to take advantage of holidaymakers and the action is part of a clampdown on ‘cowboy behaviour’.

Regular spot checks of testing providers advertised and actual prices will be carried out this week, he said.  

DAM Health was not one of the companies targeted by the Government. 

Professor Joseph told BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme DAM charges £99 for PCR tests at one of their 43 clinics in the UK after finding out that people faced test costs of up to £300 to travel.

THE RULES FOR RED, AMBER AND GREEN-LISTED COUNTRIES 

RED

Before travel to England you must:

  • take a Covid-19 test – children aged 10 and under do not need to take this test
  • book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 Covid-19 tests
  • complete a passenger locator form

On arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine in a managed hotel, including two Covid-19 tests

AMBER

Before you travel to England you must:

  • take a Covid-19 test – you must take the test in the three days before you travel to England
  • book and pay for Covid-19 tests – to be taken after arrival in England
  • complete a passenger locator form

You must do these things whether you are fully vaccinated or not.

On arrival in England

If you are fully vaccinated

After arrival in England, you must take a Covid-19 test on or before day two.

This applies if you’re fully vaccinated under either:

  • the UK vaccination programme
  • the UK vaccine programme overseas
  • an approved vaccination programme in Europe or the USA – not all are recognised in England

It also applies if you are:

  • taking part in an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial in the UK or the USA
  • under 18 and resident in the UK, a UK Overseas Territory, the USA or one of the specified European countries

If you are not fully vaccinated

If you do not qualify under the fully vaccinated rules, on arrival in England you must:

  • quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days
  • take a Covid-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight

If you are in England for less than 10 days, you need to quarantine for the time you are here. You need to book day two and day eight travel tests. You only need to take the tests if you are still in England.

GREEN

Before you travel to England you must:

  • take a Covid-19 test – children aged 10 and under do not need to take this test
  • book and pay for a day 2 Covid-19test – to be taken after arrival in England
  • complete a passenger locator form

On arrival in England

You must take a Covid-19 test on or before day two after you arrive.

Children aged four and under do not need to take this test.

You do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.

You must quarantine if NHS Test & Trace informs you that you travelled to England with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

If you have been in a country or territory on the red or amber list

If you have also been in or through a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, you must follow the red list rules.

If you have also been in or through a country or territory on the amber list in the 10 days before you arrive in England, and have not visited a country on the red list, you must follow the amber list rules.

Source: FCDO. Used under the Open Government Licence

Responding to whether testing providers could receive a test from customers, throw it out and give them made up results, he said: ‘There’s been lots of stuff on social media alluding to that type of stuff.

‘Obviously I can’t comment on that and what’s the veracity and truth in any of that.’

People returning to the UK have to take a PCR or antigen test within three days of arriving and then take one PCR test within two days of being in the country and another within eight days, depending on vaccination status.

People arriving in the UK must purchase a PCR test from a private company and then either go to one of their clinics to be tested, or do the swab test themselves at home.

The sample is then sent to a lab, which tests it for Covid. The testing companies should then contact customers with the results.

But the system has received a myriad of criticism in recent weeks.

Randox, one provider of Covid tests, was slated for having overflowing ‘drop bins’ where customers were supposed to leave their completed Covid test to be sent to a lab.

And Lord Tyrie, the ex-chair of the Competition and Markets Authority, blasted the ‘exploitative practices’ for companies charging up hundreds of pounds for travellers arriving in the UK.

He said the competition regulator has been ‘too slow to react’ to the problems.

Questions are being raised about the need for such stringent testing after it emerged around a quarter of the Covid tests carried out on travellers arriving from overseas fail to record where they have come from.

Critics of the costly tests last night questioned how officials could make decisions about which destinations should be listed as green, amber and red when such a large chunk of crucial information was missing.

They also claimed the figures meant many travellers were paying for the costly post-holiday PCR checks unnecessarily

The figures came as it was revealed the average cost of a single Covid traveller test remained above £90 – despite a vow two weeks ago by Health Secretary Sajid Javid to drive down prices.

A Daily Mail analysis of NHS Test and Trace figures shows that, of more than 742,650 tests booked by travellers, the country they arrived from is known for around 558,640.

For the remaining 184,000 swabs, the words ‘unknown’ or ‘multiple-unknown’ appear where the place they arrived from is supposed to be listed.

The data also shows the number of ‘unknowns’ has more than doubled in recent months as travel restrictions have eased.

Ministers insist post-arrival tests must be taken to help build a picture about where infections are coming into the country from and to detect variants of concern.

But Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the Future of Aviation Group of MPs, called for an overhaul of the system, including allowing arrivals to take rapid tests rather than ‘gold standard’ PCR swabs. Those who test positive could then take a PCR swab, but the price of these should also be capped, he said.

He added: ‘These figures show that testing has become little more than an expensive disincentive for international travel and has only succeeded in holding back the recovery of our aviation sector as well as leaving many travellers feeling that they have shelled out for costly tests for little or no reason.’

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘No other country in the developed world has travel restrictions as opaque, complex and expensive as ours.’

Sarah Olney MP, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman said: ‘How can the Government claim to make informed decisions about what countries are high risk when they don’t know where a quarter of travellers taking Covid tests have flown in from?’

It was unclear why the country travellers are arriving from is not recorded. The Health Department was contacted for comment.

One theory, according to experts, is that private testing firms, which some travellers book, may not always be passing on all the information to health officials.

The figures relate to July 22 to August 11, the latest for which data is available. Analysis also shows just 0.7 per cent of travellers arriving from green countries are testing positive. For amber countries the rate is 1.3 per cent.

The Health Secretary vowed two weeks ago to ‘ensure high quality tests are available at a reasonable price.’ He said the NHS would drop its prices from £88 to £68 for a single-test package and £170 to £136 for a two-swab kit.

The hope had been that private firms would follow suit. But yesterday the average price for a single travel test among private providers listed on the Government website was £93, up on £90 when Mr Javid spoke out.

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