Lateral Flow Test availability: Update for pharmacy teams


PSNC has today been in urgent discussions with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) about the availability of NHS Test and Trace Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs) to pharmacies.

We have heard from numerous contractors and LPCs about the unprecedented demand for tests through the Pharmacy Collect service, and the inability of pharmacy supplies to keep up with this. We understand that this is in line with a huge surge in demand also being seen on the national home delivery ordering website.

The UKHSA have confirmed that there are plenty of stocks available in the country, and that they have now activated contingency measures to support the supply of tests to pharmacies. Unfortunately, they are unable to lift the cap of one carton per pharmacy per day due to logistical limitations in the distribution system for the test kits.

The UKHSA and their partners are doing all that they can to fulfil the unprecedented volume of pharmacy orders, but at some points last night (13th December), in some locations, test kits were showing as out of stock at Alliance Healthcare (the sole distributor of the test kits). The UKHSA have said that this meant that further orders could not be processed at that point – systems were updated this morning as soon as more stock was delivered to Alliance Healthcare’s distribution centres.

All Alliance Healthcare distribution centres are receiving deliveries from UKHSA on a daily basis – these are enough to fill their maximum stock holding capacity at each warehouse. Usually such deliveries would provide enough stock to last for several days, but at some centres this is now not even lasting 24 hours.

UKHSA contingency measures to deliver tests to pharmacies through Parcelforce were activated yesterday to increase capacity, and the UKHSA team are exploring other ways to help increase the flow of stock to pharmacies.

We expect demand for tests to remain high for the next few days, but hope to see the positive impact of these contingency measures very soon.

In the meantime, pharmacies should continue to order stock from Alliance Healthcare using the following PIP code:

 PIP: 8943995 DHSC ORIENT GENE test kits

If a pharmacy is getting an out-of-stock message from Alliance Healthcare, it is best to try again the next morning as systems will be updated as soon as that day’s UKHSA stock arrives.

Commenting on the problems with supply of test kits to pharmacies, PSNC Director of NHS Services Alastair Buxton said:

“Nobody could have predicted the enormous scale of the surge in demand for COVID-19 test kits that we saw yesterday, following the Prime Minister’s message to the nation on Sunday night.

“This is ultimately good news in terms of increasing the level of testing taking place in the population, but it has created massive problems for pharmacy contractors and their teams needing to deal with frustrated members of the public who are struggling to immediately access test kits.

“It has been reassuring today to hear that the UKHSA’s planned contingency measures were activated yesterday to help get more stock into pharmacies. However, these will take a few days to take full effect and they will not help pharmacies with the immediate challenge of managing public expectations – we have today urged UKHSA officials to try to manage public expectations during what we expect to be short-term supply constraints.”

Read more about the Pharmacy Collect service