Health bosses have warned some routine test results in North Devon will be delayed as a result of a supply chain problem.

Pharmaceutical giant Roche said on Tuesday (October 6) it had experienced a ‘very significant drop’ in its processing capacity due to a problem at its sole UK distribution centre in Sussex.

The issue raised alarms over the supply of laboratory materials such as reagents for diagnostic tests, screening kits and swabs used for a range of conditions, including Covid-19 testing.

Roche warned customers the issues may not be resolved for two to three weeks, but said it is prioritising the dispatch of Covid-19 and antibody tests.

Dr Alex Degan, medical director for primary care in Devon said GP practices which send samples to North Devon District Hospital will suffer delays for routine test results, although urgent tests would continue to be processed.

Roche Diagnostics Ltd in Burgess Hill, East Sussex. Concerns have been raised over the supply of vital testing materials for a range of conditions, including Covid-19, following a supply chain problem with the pharmaceutical giant. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA WireRoche Diagnostics Ltd in Burgess Hill, East Sussex. Concerns have been raised over the supply of vital testing materials for a range of conditions, including Covid-19, following a supply chain problem with the pharmaceutical giant. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Dr Degan said: “There is currently no disruption for the vast majority of patients, GP practices and hospital staff in Devon, for whom samples are being processed as normal.

“However, the GP practices which send samples to the laboratory at North Devon District Hospital are being advised that due to differences in the equipment used there, routine test results will be delayed while the supply chain issue is resolved. Urgent tests continue to be processed.

“NHS organisations in the county are working closely together to ensure any impact on patients is kept to a minimum.”

In a letter seen by Press Association, Roche said the problem was caused during a move to a new automated warehouse in September.

The company told customers to activate their local contingency plans ‘and recommend that you look to prioritise essential services only’.

The Government has urged people who need coronavirus tests to continue to seek them despite the issue.

Allan Wilson, president of the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), said the majority of conditions require a type of diagnostic test, including blood or urine tests, and routine tests were likely to be delayed.

Mr Wilson said the high volumes of materials used means laboratories were unlikely to have sizable stocks of these chemicals and materials in-house and that Roche was a significant player in the UK market.

He said: “If this problem is going to be a matter of days that’s fine, we can probably manage that, but if it’s going to be weeks, I think that does give me concern that we could potentially begin to really have some problems delivering diagnostic tests within the UK.”