Results of tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests disappear into ‘black hole’

The results of tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests carried out by the Government's network of testing centres are not being shared locally, stalling efforts to control the outbreak, it has emerged.

A leaked email, seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), said data from a new testing programme of non-NHS labs – managed by consultancy firm Deloitte – is not available.

Sent at the weekend from a regional NHS incident centre, the email said: "No new national testing programme (NTP) data will be reported in this brief from 4 May until further notice.

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Lockdown restrictions eased in England
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Lockdown restrictions eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
A commuter wearing passes a sign telling passes a sign advising passengers to "Avoid this Station right now" at Walthamstow undergound station in London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
Station staff work at a quiet quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Walkers take a stroll at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District, Cumbria, on the first day of lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on leisure activities and outdoor exercise. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two fishermen angle their rods towards the sea on the beach at Minehead after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two men play football on the beach at Minehead after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man fishes near Ashtead, Surrey, on the first day of lifting of lockdown restrictions on leisure activities including tennis, water sports, angling and golf. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man fishes near Ashtead, Surrey, on the first day of lifting of lockdown restrictions on leisure activities including tennis, water sports, angling and golf. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A police officer wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, stands with commuters as they travel in the morning rush hour on TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line trains from Finsbury Park towards central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
A pedestrian wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks past street art graffiti praising the workers od Britain's NHS (National Health Service) and other key workers, by artists Nathan Bowen and Harry Blackmore, in London on April 23, 2020. on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, - MAY 13: A safety sign saying "Pro-Shop open, one in one out, thank you" as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A safety sign on the flag saying "Please do not touch the flags" as a golfer plays as shot on the green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A "Welcome back" and Covid-19 safety sign as a golfer plays on the practice putting green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A rainbow forms as sprinklers spray over the practice putting green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
The British Government's new COVID-19 slogan "Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives" is pictured on the BT (British Telecom) tower, in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A section of beach has been closed whilst police await the bomb squad after a suspicious item was found on May 13, 2020 in Weymouth, United Kingdom. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Walkers take a stroll at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District, Cumbria, on the first day of lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on leisure activities and outdoor exercise. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A section of beach has been closed whilst police await the bomb squad after a suspicious item was found on May 13, 2020 in Weymouth, United Kingdom. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
A sign tells commuters that they need to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) of a face covering, or mask, and observe social distancing as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, at Westminster underground station in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Protective screens and hand gel are seen in a Pret a Manger store on May 13, 2020 in London, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
A commuter wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel in the morning rush hour on TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line train from Walthamstow towards central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
A commuter wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel waits on th eplatform at Oxford Circus to travel on a TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line train in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
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"This is due to the NTP testing numbers increasingly becoming unavailable.

"A reporting solution for NTP data is being built into the (Department for Health and Social Care) portal – once available, it will be captured in this testing brief again."

The results of the tests are still being fed into the national UK totals. However, only NHS lab results, which now account for less than half of all tests carried out, are being reported locally.

One source told the HSJ the local intelligence which should be produced from the testing system is "disappearing into a data black hole".

A public health director from the south of England, which has been badly hit by the virus, told HSJ there was no access to data from non-NHS labs.

He said: "The system remains a mess – multiple routes to test, multiple command structures via the NHS. How are directors of public health expected to manage and direct testing?

"We need to arrange testing for staff and for residents. But the NHS does some of it, mobile testing sites run by military do other bits, regional testing sites do others, but travel is a challenge."

Data on regional outbreaks will be vital to the success of the test, track and trace programme being implemented by the Government.

The data is meant to tell local organisations how many residents and staff in their area have tested positive and enable them to work out the capacity for more tests.

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