Government hasn’t explained differing statements on lab accused of inaccurate Covid-19 results

22 October 2021
What was claimed

The Immensa lab, which may have given more than 43,000 inaccurate PCR test results, was fully accredited before being appointed by the government.

Our verdict

This was originally stated by a government spokesperson, however it later emerged that it was untrue. The government told Full Fact that the lab was in the “early stages” of accreditation, but did not explain the discrepancy between the two statements.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has failed to explain why it released two different statements about a Covid testing laboratory in Wolverhampton which may have sent inaccurate results to 43,000 people

On 15 October a government spokesperson was reported as saying the lab in question “was fully accredited by the UK’s independent accreditation service before being appointed” to process the PCR tests. 

Dr Jenny Harries, head of NHS Test and Trace, also told the BBC that the lab was "accredited to all of the appropriate standards".

However in the following days it emerged that the lab, run by Immensa Health Clinic Ltd, was not in fact fully accredited, as reported by the Guardian.  

This was confirmed by a statement from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), part of which read: “Neither Immensa Health Clinic Ltd nor its related company Dante Labs Ltd has been accredited by UKAS.” Dante Labs Ltd is a sister company of Immensa, and provides PCR testing for international travel

Accreditation is not a legal requirement, but the regulatory body has been working with the DHSC to implement a three-stage accreditation process designed “to provide information about the competence of these [Covid-19] testing services”. 

When Full Fact asked the DHSC why a government spokesperson had initially said the lab was fully accredited when this was untrue, it did not reply directly to the question. Instead, the way in which the lab was described changed. 

A spokesperson told us: “The Immensa laboratory in Wolverhampton passed an independent quality audit overseen by NHS Test and Trace and is in the early stages of the process for UKAS accreditation [emphasis our own].”

Full Fact has contacted the DHSC for further comment about the discrepancy between these statements, but has not yet received a response. 

Standards of accuracy in government communication must be higher. It is essential that mistakes are corrected quickly and openly. Full Fact has called for a framework for how suspected errors in public communications by ministers, officials or public bodies should be dealt with.

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