Teenagers with symptoms of 'inflammatory syndrome' sent 'useless' kits

Covid test farce continues as parents of two teenage boys with symptoms of ‘inflammatory syndrome’ are among ‘thousands’ sent ‘useless’ kits with no barcodes or even a return address

  • Sabrina and Steve Legge said boys had symptoms of illness linked to Covid-19 
  • Parents claim NHS 111 and GP said illness was 95 per cent likely related to virus 
  • Family then ordered testing kits from Randox which came without vital items 
  • Did you receive a ‘useless’ testing kit? Email [email protected]
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Britain’s coronavirus testing farce has continued as two teenage boys with symptoms of an ‘inflammatory syndrome’ were sent ‘useless’ kits with no barcodes or a return address.   

Sabrina and Steve Legge, from Bath in Somerset, were left terrified when teenagers Dylan, 16, and Colston, 14, began to display symptoms of an illness linked to the deadly coronavirus.

The couple said both boys had suffered with sickness, diarrhoea, stabbing chest pains and blistering on their tongues since the end of April and were told by an NHS 111 call handler and their GP that the symptoms were 95 per cent likely to be related to Covid-19. 

Despite this, the pair claim a medic at their local practice refused to test them, reportedly saying ‘we don’t hand out tests willy-nilly’ and allegedly telling the family only those who are over the age of 18 or critically ill are eligible for NHS testing. 

Mr and Mrs Legge then decided to order throat swab testing kits from Randox Laboratories through the government scheme, but when they arrived the parents claim the kits were missing vital barcodes and information about how to return them for processing.

Pictured: Steve and Sabrina Legge seen before lockdown began with teenagers Dylan and Colston

After calling Randox for guidance, the couple claim they were told they were one of ‘thousands’ of people who called with the same complaint after a packaging error rendered tests ‘useless’. 

Randox said they were aware of the issue, while the Department of Health added ‘urgent action’ had been taken to mitigate ‘small errors’ with the testing process. 

The continuation of Britain’s Covid-19 testing farce came as:

  • Up to 50,000 coronavirus test samples were sent from the UK to the US after ‘operational issues’ in the lab network led to delays in the system 
  • Government continues to miss Matt Hancock’s target of 100,000 tests per day
  • Figures yesterday fell short of this number for the seventh day in a row, with 96,878 tests conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday
  • It was also reported today that Britain could ditch its coronavirus contact-tracing app before it has even been rolled out nationwide 
  • Communities secretary Robert Jenrick revealed the app – being piloted on the Isle of Wight – may need to ‘adapt’ or ‘move to a different model’
  • Boris Johnson said last week he aimed to undertake 200,000 Covid-19 tests per day by the end of May

Mr Legge said: ‘I think it’s a disgrace that I, as a taxpayer, am paying for these kits and they’re useless.

‘I’ve already had to fight like crazy to see if my kids have got this killer disease, and then when the kits do finally come they are completely useless.

‘When we called Randox, the guy on the phone apologised and told us there had been an error with packaging on a batch of tests, that there were thousands and thousands of them, and they’d had thousands of calls related to the same problem.

‘They told us the kits were useless.

‘You couldn’t make it up. With everything that is happening how could they make a mistake like that? It’s scary.’ 

Pictured: The leaflet that came with the Legges’ testing kits, explaining ‘in this pack you will find three Unique Reference Number labels’

Pictured: The swab shown had a space for the codes to identify who the test belonged to – but there were no codes included in the kit

Last month, GPs alerted to a sharp rise in children being admitted to intensive care with a ‘possible SARS-CoV-2 related inflammatory syndrome’.

Cases of this rare inflammatory disease were said to have ‘in common overlapping features of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease with blood parameters consistent with severe Covid-19 in children’.

The alert, issued by a clinical commissioning group, was described as ‘significant’, with cardiac inflammation and abdominal pain among common symptoms, the Nursing Times reported.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said it could ‘entirely plausibly’ be linked to the coronavirus outbreak, before Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the new strain could be fatal. 

Children who have suffered with this illness have also tested positive for coronavirus, which is why Mr Legge was determined to get the teenagers tested.  

Northern Ireland biotech firm Randox Laboratories has partnered with the UK government to supply coronavirus home testing kits to British residents who apply for them online.

The ordering process requires you to enter the details of the person the kit is for, before you are issued a URN code so the test results can be matched up with the correct patient.  

But Mr Legge claims when the two tests arrived, they were missing the URN codes, information about how to take the test and barcode stickers needed for couriers to return them.     

He said: ‘When these kits arrived there were no instructions on where to send them to or anything.

‘It said that we needed unique reference numbers but they weren’t included and there was no barcode sticker for the courier to scan when you return the test. 

Pictured: The outside packaging of the kit showed no address or evidence as to where the kit should be returned to

Randox said they were aware of the issue, while the Department of Health added ‘urgent action’ had been taken to mitigate ‘small errors’ with the testing process

‘When you order the test you have to put the person’s details who the test is for and you get given a unique reference number which should match all those on the kit so they can match up the results with the correct patient.

‘When we called up to ask them how to do the test and where they needed to be sent to, they told us there should be a sticker with a barcode for the courier to scan, but it wasn’t there either.

‘Sabrina has tried to re-order the kits but the website is now saying there’s none available. It’s a nightmare.

Did you receive a ‘useless’ testing kit?

Email [email protected] 

‘The boys are very anxious, they’re not themselves. We keep trying to reassure them that everything is going to be OK and that we will get them sorted and tested but they are very worried.’

Mrs Legge, who works as a radiology assistant at Bristol Royal Infirmary, has now been forced to self-isolate from her job for two weeks until the couple have answers over whether the boys are coronavirus positive.  

Her husband said: ‘We called NHS 111 and the handler told us she was 95 per cent sure their symptoms were Covid-related.

‘The second opinion from the GP was that they were 95 per cent certain it was Covid related too.

‘But we were told they don’t test anybody under the age of 18 or that they only test those who are critically ill and/or in intensive care.

‘My kids don’t need to go into intensive care to get tested, we are trying to stop it from getting to that stage. I’m absolutely disgusted by this, it’s a joke.

Pictured: The leaflet included with the testing kit, which explained those being tested need to register URN numbers with Randox

‘They have had nearly all the symptoms but they weren’t willing to test them. It’s a disgrace to the health service. 

‘My wife is working her socks off helping Covid-19 patients all the time and then as soon as it’s your own kids that are sick nobody seems to be able to help.’

A spokesperson for Randox said the organisation was ‘aware of the issue’, adding that it was ‘being looked at’ by those responsible for distribution. 

‘We are aware of the issue … which is being looked at by those within the national testing programme who are responsible for testing kit distribution,’ a statement said.

‘It should be noted that Randox is only one partner within a multi-partner, national testing programme.

‘The programme is being run and coordinated by the Department of Health and Social Care and they would be best placed to comment on the overall programme.’

NHS contact tracing app ‘does not work on Huawei and some older phones’

Huawei and some older mobile phones cannot run the NHS contact tracing app being trialled on the Isle of Wight, NHSX has admitted.

Dr Geraint Lewis, who is in charge of the development of the NHS Covid-19 app, said that the new tool will only work with newer operating systems on Apple and Samsung phones.

Speaking to BBC Radio Solent, he said phones needed to have the capability of running Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and to be running either Apple iOS 11 upwards or Android 8 upwards.

Several listeners had contacted the radio station to say that the app, which is being piloted on the island before being rolled out nationwide, was not working on older devices.

Dr Lewis said: ‘There are three reasons why the app might not work on a particular smart phone, it’s either the development team has not got around to supporting that particular phone.

‘The second reason is if the phone itself doesn’t have this thing called Bluetooth Low Energy in it, certain older phones don’t have BLE and that’s the piece of technology we use to measure distance between phones.

‘The third reason is the operating system, we currently support ios version 11 and upwards and Android version 8 and upwards, so if you can update the operating system that should hopefully help.’

Another listener complained that the app drained the battery on their phone but Dr Lewis said that it had been designed to be low energy and only used 1 per cent of battery on his phone and asked for people with problems to give their feedback to NHSX.

Dr Lewis explained that Android phones request permission to use location services because the system bundles it together with bluetooth permissions and he had written to Google to point out that this was ‘confusing’.

He added: ‘It is not a tracking app, it doesn’t know geographically where you are, all it is measuring is the distance between your phone and somebody else’s.’

Explaining how the app works, he said: ‘If you download the app, it starts taking anonymous measurements of how far away you are from other app users and it stores that information anonymously on your phone.

‘If later on you develop symptoms of coronavirus, either fever or continuous new cough, then you can choose to send that information to the NHS, then we will notify anonymously those people you have been in close contact with and then arrange for a virology swab test delivered to your door in a few hours.

‘The system is there to protect the whole community, so if sufficient numbers of people download and use the app everyone will be protected regardless of whether they themselves have a phone that is compatible.’

He added: ‘The huge advantage of an app over more traditional forms of contact tracing, is that you can almost industrialise the process, it’s able to send notifications very rapidly to people very soon after they have developed these symptoms which is the time when they are at their most infectious.’

Dr Lewis said that 55,000 people had downloaded the app so far but it was not possible to say that all of those were on the Isle of Wight.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care added: ‘We are aware of a small number of home test kits that were incorrectly dispatched without a return label.

‘We are urgently seeking to resolve this so anyone affected can either be provided with a new label or order a replacement kit online, which won’t be counted in the daily figures.

‘We’re rapidly expanding testing and have increased the numbers of those eligible over the last week.

‘Nearly a million people have now been tested in the UK and the vast majority report no issues with the testing process.

‘Where, in a small number of instances, process errors have been highlighted to us, we have taken urgent action to implement robust mitigations to the testing process.’ 

The distribution of these ‘useless’ kits comes after up to 50,000 coronavirus test samples had to be sent from the UK to the US after ‘operational issues’ in the lab network led to delays in the system.

The Department of Health said sending swabs abroad is one of the contingencies to deal with so-called teething problems in a rapidly-expanded testing system. 

It is understood the test results will be validated back in the UK and communicated to patients ‘as quickly as possible’.  

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘The expansion of the UK’s coronavirus testing network has involved setting up an entirely new ‘Lighthouse’ lab network to process test swabs.

‘When problems arise, we have contingencies in place which include creating extra temporary capacity for our labs or sending swabs abroad to partner labs for completion.

‘Of course, our partner labs must match our high standards.’ 

The government has repeatedly missed Matt Hancock’s target of 100,000 Covid-19 tests per day, with figures yesterday falling short of this number for the seventh day in a row.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said 96,878 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 9am on Saturday, down from 97,029 the day before.

This is far from Boris Johnson’s ‘ambition’ of 200,000 tests per day by the end of May. 

Heath leaders insisted they expected ‘fluctuations’ in the figures, claiming the testing was still much higher than it was at the start of the outbreak.    

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said not much could be read into day-to-day variations.

He told the Downing Street press briefing: ‘We are now really at a high plateau, in the region of 100,000 tests per day.

‘There is some fluctuation, and quite frankly I expect there to be some fluctuation on a day-to-day basis.

‘I don’t think we can read too much into day-to-day variations, but the macro-picture is this is now at a much, much higher level than it ever was at the beginning of this crisis.’

It was reported today that Britain could ditch its coronavirus contact-tracing app before it has even been rolled out nationwide.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick revealed the app – being piloted on the Isle of Wight – may need to ‘adapt’ or ‘move to a different model’.

Fewer than 50,000 people living on the island, or 35 per cent of its population, have downloaded the app since the trial began last week.

But experts say around two-thirds of Britain – the equivalent of 40million people – will eventually need to install the app for it to work.

The app, which works using Bluetooth, alerts users if they have been in close contact with someone who has reported symptoms of COVID-19.

But its design has sparked privacy concerns, with officials admitting the ‘centralised’ NHS approach sees personal data stored in one database.

Other nations have adopted an app model which stores data in a ‘decentralised’ way, meaning the app does not harvest location data.

Google and Apple’s own decentralised tech has been adopted by European nations including Germany, Ireland and Switzerland.

Health chiefs – keen to roll the app out nationwide in the next week – are understood to be looking at switching to the system used by the two tech giants. 

Did you receive a ‘useless’ testing kit? Email [email protected] 

A timeline of coronavirus testing in Britain as Boris Johnson sets a new target 

January 23

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tells the House of Commons that the UK is ‘ready to respond appropriately’ to any cases of coronavirus that emerge.

‘The UK is one of the first countries to have developed a world-leading test for the new coronavirus,’ he says.

February 3

Mr Hancock updates the Commons after the first positive coronavirus tests were recorded in the UK, telling MPs that ‘testing worldwide is being done on equipment designed in Oxford’.

February 26

The NHS is testing a ‘very large number’ of people who have travelled back from coronavirus-stricken countries, Mr Hancock tells MPs, but does not mention a specific number.

Pictured: Health Secretary Matt Hancock leaves Downing Street on May 11

March 11

Faced with increasing calls from MPs for faster and wider testing, Mr Hancock says ministers are ‘absolutely ramping up the testing capabilities’ – but once again does not reveal how many checks are being carried out.

He dismisses testing for everyone, adding: ‘Testing people who do not have symptoms is not reliable and is counterproductive, so we will not be doing it.’

March 12

Contact tracing and widespread community testing is abandoned as the Government moves into the ‘delay’ stage of its coronavirus plan.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty tells a Downing Street briefing it is ‘no longer necessary for us to identify every case’, with only those in hospitals to be formally examined.

March 16

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, tells reporters that all countries must ‘test, test, test’ people for the virus.

Later that day, Professor Whitty defends the Government’s position on testing at the daily briefing.

‘We do intend to continue to scale up testing,’ he says, adding that efforts were already ‘substantial’ – with more than 44,000 tests conducted overall.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, tells reporters that all countries must ‘test, test, test’ people for the virus

March 19

The Prime Minister says authorities are ‘massively increasing’ testing on people who may currently have coronavirus, with daily testing going ‘from 5,000 a day, to 10,000 to 25,000 and then up at 250,000’.

March 24

A new testing facility for coronavirus opens in Milton Keynes, which Mr Hancock says will allow the Government to ‘ramp up’ testing numbers.

Earlier that day, former health secretary and chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Jeremy Hunt urges the Government to commit to a testing timeline.

March 25

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson claims that testing has been a priority for ‘weeks and weeks’, but he does not offer a timetable on testing for healthcare workers.

On the same day, NHS England’s medical director Professor Stephen Powis tells LBC that testing is being expanded, with the hope of carrying out ‘hundreds of thousands’ of tests per day in the coming weeks.

March 26

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries says contact tracing and widespread community testing is ‘not an appropriate mechanism as we go forward’.

March 27

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, announces that testing is to be rolled out for NHS frontline staff.

March 29

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove claims the Government has hit its initial target of 10,000 tests per day for the wider public.

But Public Health England figures show 9,114 had been carried out as of 9am on March 28 and 8,278 by the same time on March 29.

March 31

Mr Gove acknowledges the UK must go ‘further, faster’ to ramp up coronavirus testing.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on May 6, Boris Johnson says ‘the ambition clearly is to get up to 200,000 a day by the end of this month and then to go even higher’

The PM gave five phases of a ‘Covid alert level’ that will be primarily influenced by the rate of transmission, or R, which he said is between 0.5 and 0.9

April 2

An ambitious goal of reaching 100,000 tests for coronavirus per day by the end of April is set by the Health Secretary.

April 15

Mr Hancock pledges to test all care home residents with symptoms and all new care home residents who are discharged from hospital.

April 17

The Health Secretary describes the current level of coronavirus testing as ‘frustrating’, with figures the day before just over 18,000.

Later that day, testing is expanded to more frontline workers, including to police and prison staff, fire and rescue workers, and local authority staff working with vulnerable people or rough sleepers.

April 23

Millions of people become eligible for a coronavirus test under an expansion of the testing programme for essential workers and their households, announced by Mr Hancock.

April 27

The Government has a ‘lot of work’ to do to hit its 100,000-a-day testing target, Mr Hancock admits at a Downing Street briefing – with just 37,024 tests carried out the previous day.

May 1

The Health Secretary says the Government has hit its testing target, calling it an ‘incredible achievement’, with 122,347 tests performed in the 24 hours up to 9am on May 1.

But questions are raised over how the tests have been counted, after recent changes mean newer home test kits are counted while being dispatched.

May 3

The number of daily tests carried out in the UK falls to below 80,000, as statistics published by the Government indicate that a total of 76,496 checks were carried out in the 24 hours up to 9am on May 3.

May 5

England’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance tells MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee that ramping up testing capacity quicker would have been ‘beneficial’ to the UK’s response.

At the same committee, Dr Harries admits that had there been unlimited capacity, a ‘slightly different approach’ to testing could have been taken.

Meanwhile, the Government misses its testing target for the third day in a row.

May 6

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson says ‘the ambition clearly is to get up to 200,000 a day by the end of this month and then to go even higher’.

May 10

It is revealed up to 50,000 coronavirus test samples had to be sent from the UK to the US after ‘operational issues’ in the lab network led to delays in the system. 

The Department of Health said sending swabs abroad is one of the contingencies to deal with so-called teething problems in a rapidly-expanded testing system.

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