Community pharmacies across England are facing continued lateral flow tests (LFT) shortages after deliveries from the Government have been delayed for several days.

This comes as contractors offering the LFT distribution service reported a huge surge in demand for LFT kits soon after the prime minister’s announcement on the increasing threat of the Omicron variant last week (12 December).

In the same briefing, the Government announced that contacts of Omicron cases would be allowed to avoid a 10-day self-isolation period by taking daily LFTs. The Government directed patients to pharmacies to collect the tests.

Since the announcement, pharmacists and pharmacy leaders alike said that the sector was struggling to keep up with demand, with some contractors saying they had experienced an increase in hostility and aggression from frustrated patients who could not get a hold of tests.

Despite this, the Government has not managed to get continual supplies of lateral flow tests out to all pharmacies offering the service.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) — the body in charge of testing — told The Pharmacist yesterday (22 December) that this was due to a 'supply chain issue’ which would mean that ‘some pharmacies’ would experience a ‘temporary delay’ in receiving their LFT orders.

‘This is being resolved and normal service will resume shortly,’ they said.

However, UKHSA also said: ‘Last week saw record numbers of rapid tests distributed across the country, with over 11 million test kits sent to pharmacies across the UK.

‘There is no shortage of free rapid tests and there is a range of ways that people can get them to help combat the spread of Covid-19,' they added.

Earlier this week, Alliance Healthcare — England’s only supplier of LFTs to community pharmacies — said on its website that the ‘unprecedented demand for lateral flow test kits from people testing due to the Omicron variant, combined with precautionary testing before the Christmas period, continues’.

In response to the high demand, the UKHSA has created posters for pharmacies to download, print and display on-premises informing customers that the pharmacy is temporarily out of LFT tests.