AN URGENT message has been issued to people in Herefordshire who could have been given the wrong Covid test result.

An estimated 43,000 in the UK people could have been given wrong negative PCR Covid test results, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

NHS Test and Trace suspended testing operations provided by Immensa Health Clinic Ltd at its laboratory in Wolverhampton, following an investigation into reports of people receiving negative PCR test results after they have previously tested positive on a lateral flow.

A negative PCR means people will not have needed to isolate and could potentially have spread the infection to many other people.

The errors relate to test results given to people between September 8 and October 12, mainly in the South West of England, but with some cases in the South East and Wales – and Herefordshire Council warned people in the county had been affected.

There are no technical issues with test kits themselves and people should continue to test as normal, UKHSA said.

It said a full investigation is being carried out into why and how incorrect results were given.

UKHSA has reported that testing operations provided by Immensa Health Clinic Ltd, based at its laboratory in Wolverhampton, have been suspended. This followed an investigation into reports of people receiving negative PCR test results after they have previously tested positive on a Lateral Flow Device.

"While this has mainly affected samples that have come from the South West region, some Herefordshire residents have been affected," the council said.

It said anyone who could have received an incorrect negative test result in the previous 10 days will be informed and asked to repeat their test.

NHS Test and Trace will also contact all those who may have had an incorrect negative test over the last four weeks to inform them of this incident and to apologise. Everyone affected should be contacted by October 24.

"If you receive a text message from NHS Test and Trace please follow the guidance to book a PCR test," the spokesperson said.

"Close contacts who are symptomatic will also be advised to take a test in line with the normal guidance.

"Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should book a PCR test. Those with a positive LFD (lateral flow device) test should get a follow up PCR test to confirm they have Covid-19.

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of UKHSA, told the BBC it was likely only a few thousand of the 43,000 affected were still infectious.

She added that it was “not clear yet” what went wrong in the private laboratory, adding that it was “accredited to all of the appropriate standards”.

NHS Test and Trace estimates that around 400,000 samples have been processed through the lab, but new samples are now being redirected to other labs.

Test and Trace is contacting people who could still be infectious to advise them to take another test, while close contacts who are symptomatic will also be advised to take a test, as is already recommended.

PCR tests can detect Covid-19 several weeks after infection.

If a person has a positive lateral flow result, they are told to have a follow-up PCR to confirm the finding.

The Government awarded Immensa a £119 million contract in October 2020 to urgently “develop volume for PCR testing for Covid in line with test and trace requirements”, the contract shows.

The contract did not go to tender under rules allowing urgent responses to the pandemic.

A further £50 million was awarded to Immensa, incorporated in May 2020, by the Government in a contract last September.

Andrea Riposati, chief executive of Immensa, said: “We are fully collaborating with UKHSA on this matter.

“Quality is paramount for us. We have proudly analysed more than 2.5 million samples for NHS Test and Trace, working closely with the great teams at the Department for Health and UKHSA.

“We do not wish this matter or anything else to tarnish the amazing work done by the UK in this pandemic.”