Response to Channel 4 Dispatches Monday 16th November
The claims made about Randox in the Channel 4/Dispatches documentary ‘Lockdown Chaos: How the Government lost Control’ are underhand, deceptive, dishonest and defamatory and the producers have been notified of the true position.
Underhand, deceptive and dishonest behaviour hampers the fight against the pandemic
“This Channel 4 Dispatches “investigation” and use of an undercover reporter grossly misrepresents the facts on the ground and – more importantly – the hard work of all the staff at Randox to expand operations quickly so we can play an important supportive role in the national effort to defeat the pandemic. The journalist was employed for just 10 days in manufacturing and only spent a very limited time in accessioning. He was not qualified to carry out an “investigation” on quality control measures used in the diagnostics sector. Furthermore, the consultant microbiologist who reviewed the findings of the journalist is a historic opponent of the Pillar 2 testing programme and as such clearly could not provide unbiassed expertise in his review.
“If Dispatches had approached us in an upfront and honest manner with legitimate questions, then we would have worked with them to deliver an accurate and factual programme. This is hatchet job journalism of the worst kind.”
Randox wish to state the following:
Randox strongly refute those allegations made regarding Randox’s laboratory operations within the Channel 4 documentary, ‘Lockdown Chaos: How the Government lost Control’, transmitted on 16th November. Responses to the key allegations are below these more general comments.
Randox wish to state that it is particularly disappointing that Channel 4 and Dispatches appear focussed in portraying a national story of chaos and negativity – without reflecting what has been achieved during the Covid-19 pandemic.
From a standing start, Randox used its extensive experience to develop an innovative assay for Covid-19, built and equipped over 45,000 square feet of specialist molecular laboratories, developed and equipped a further 50,000 square feet of logistic and technical support space, and mobilised its global supply chains to source equipment and consumables. Extensive R&D capabilities were also refocussed to support innovation within Covid-19 operations.
Over 750 new staff have been employed. Randox have invested over £68m of private money in building and resourcing new facilities and have taken testing capacity from 150 molecular assays per day at the end of March 2020 to 80,000 assays per day by early November. In just over 7 months Randox have reported over 5 million molecular test results to the UK’s Covid-19 National Testing Programme.
There have been significant challenges to face and Randox have committed to the provision of safe, accurate, reliable and timely results at scale, within a culture of continuous process improvement. As a result Randox often operates efficiently above its committed capacity to the National Testing Programme and meets, or improves upon, the required turnaround times for test results.
Randox, and our staff, do find the use of a covert reporter within our workforce to be disingenuous. By default that reporter had very limited access, very limited understanding and, it appears, a particularly negative mindset. Channel 4 could easily have asked for more open access and ensured much more balanced and reputable journalism.
Randox staff are exceptionally dedicated, working to both support and assist those in need of testing, and to optimise processes. Randox would like to reinforce their thanks and appreciation to all staff who have achieved so much throughout this pandemic.
Allegation: Boxes of samples are unpacked at speed and he (the reporter) was warned there is a recurrent problem of swab samples mistakenly being thrown into the waste with cardboard packaging.
Response: This is a complete misrepresentation; all samples are unpacked for processing and safety checks are carried out on bulk boxes after they have been unpacked. On the very rare occasion a sample gets accidently caught in the cardboard packaging (estimated 1 in 100,000) it is found and returned to accessioning. There are no recorded cases of samples going to waste. It is also physically impossible, should there ever be missed samples, for any staff member to ‘get samples all over them’ due to the stringent safety measures of the compactor/baler. Supervisors do continually stress and can occasionally embellish the importance of due diligence in accessioning, as was evidenced.
Allegation: Randox accessioning processes run a risk of cross-contamination.
Response: Valid samples are separated from leaked samples, whilst still in leakproof packaging, at the point of accessioning. Valid samples are wiped down with disinfectant once unpacked; disinfectant is clearly visible on the cloth being used to wipe the tubes, illustrating that tubes are disinfected. Tubes are then racked in an upright position. There is no possibility of cross contamination.
Randox also wish to record their disappointment in the approach undertaken by the ‘expert’ Dr Tom Lewis, and note the previous stance he has taken on non-NHS laboratories. Dr Lewis has never operated at the scale or efficiency Randox have achieved, reporting up to 80,000 Covid-19 samples in a single day. He did not peer review his comments or, noting the inexperience of the undercover reporter (who spent only 4.5 hours in the accessioning area), seek any clarification on processes or procedures from Randox before making his comments.
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