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Delay in opening covid lab at hospital cost taxpayer £5m

Delay in opening covid lab at hospital cost taxpayer £5m

Thursday 05 May 2022

Delay in opening covid lab at hospital cost taxpayer £5m

Thursday 05 May 2022

A three-month delay in opening an in-house covid testing lab at the Hospital last year cost the taxpayer an extra £5m, a review has found.

The Government’s spending watchdog, Comptroller and Auditor General Lynn Pamment, has analysed its £61.9m covid test and trace and £14m vaccination programmes.

Lab replacement delay problems

Concerning the PCR laboratory, which was run by a company called Open Cell in a shipping container at the Airport from more than a year, Mrs Pamment said: "The major expenditure in 2020 and 2021 related to the outsourced on-Island testing laboratory solution, which was commissioned for a minimum of four months from September 2020.

"The commissioned outsourced on-Island testing laboratory was scheduled to be replaced by an in-house Hospital laboratory from 1 July 2021. The original timetable provided for a two-month transition/overlap period (August and September 2021) between the in-house Hospital laboratory and the on-island testing laboratory.

"The project to establish an in-house Hospital laboratory however experienced a number of delays. The in-house laboratory was rescheduled to be fully operational by September 2021, but did not open until November 2021."


Pictured: An on-island, outsourced covid testing lab opened in September 2020 and closed in November 2021.

The report continued: "The additional cost due to this three-month delay was estimated as £5.1 million based on the volume of tests and the variation in unit cost between the in-house laboratory and the on- Island testing laboratory.

"Additional funding of £3.4 million was provided to cover this... which was net of £2.6 million savings in other areas."

Express reported at the time that the delay in moving the lab in-house was due to supply chain and IT issues.

Contract extension breached finance rules

Mrs Pamment also found that the approval to extend the Open Cell contract beyond its initial four-month term breached the Government's Public Finances Manual. 

She added: "My findings show that some members of the public in Jersey were sometimes confused by scientifically informed, evolving testing, tracing and isolation advice.

"In addition, despite significantly increasing the Islands testing capacity, at key times the combined test and trace service could not meet demand. In particular attempts to trace all the contacts of infected islanders within a short period of time were, at times, compromised.

"This was particularly the case in the third wave (Delta variant) during the summer of 2021 and in the fourth wave (Omicron variant) in the late autumn of 2021."

Pamment covid.jpg

Pictured: Ms Pamment reviewed many areas of the island's covid response.

However, overall, she found that the test and trace programme was mostly effective but some business cases that decisions were based on did not have enough detail.

Test and trace didn't always keep pace

Mrs Pamment found that the Government “acted at pace and in a reasonably controlled and measured way to effectively introduce and scale up an island-wide test and trace programme commencing in May 2020”. 

“In some instances, the business cases that supported the test and trace programme lacked sufficient detail and justification,” she concluded.

She added that "over the course 2021, there have been times when the programme has not kept pace with the pandemic."

Vaccination success

When it came to the vaccination programme, Mrs Pamment said: “The Government performed well to deliver an effective vaccination programme under very tight time constraints.

"The delivery has, in overall terms, been effective.”


Pictured: The review found that vaccines given free to the island by the UK saved the Government more than £3m.

The C&AG found that the provision of free vaccines by the UK Government resulted in significant savings in providing the first two doses. This allowed the cost of the first phase of the third-dose booster to be met from the initial funding allocation for the first two doses. 

She estimates that the cost-benefit to the Government of these free vaccines was more than £3.5m last year.

£32.11 per covid jab

The C&AG estimated that the cost of administering the vaccine was £32.11 per jab over the course of the whole programme. In 2021, it was £23.66 per vaccine, similar to the cost in Scotland but about £2 cheaper than in England. 

Given that the vaccines had been free, the major cost of the programme in 2021 related to paying staff to deliver and administer it. 

Overall, Mrs Pamment found that “the objectives and purpose of the vaccination programme were clearly stated in key strategic and project management documents, that there were clear lines of governance and good project management and control”.

Findings welcomed

In response to the review, Director of Public Health Professor Peter Bradley said: “I’d like to thank the C&AG and her team for their comprehensive report into the Test and Trace Programme and the Vaccination Programme. We welcome the findings and conclusions which are so important for us to learn from.

“I am pleased that the C&AG recognises the pace at which the programmes have evolved as a result of the unpredictable nature of covid, and how Jersey has performed well in comparison to other jurisdictions.

director of public health Peter Bradley

Pictured: Director of Public Health Professor Peter Bradley.

He continued: “The publication also provides us with an opportunity to recognise the skills, dedication, and hard work of all the staff working in the Test and Trace and vaccination programmes. These programmes have often been acknowledged as world class, which is testament to the staff.

“Testing and vaccination has been absolutely essential in keeping both islanders and visitors safe throughout the pandemic; particularly during the peak waves of infection when vaccination worked as a defence against the virus, and test and trace ensured that the spread of infection could be kept to a minimum within the community and at our borders. 

“I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in the programmes as you continue to keep islanders safe.”

Multiple reviews

Ms Pamment's review is one of several Into the island's covid response.

Scrutiny Panels have probed a number of different areas, most recently the co-funded payroll scheme.

Last year, Constable Mike Jackson secured a £500,000 independent covid inquiry to be completed by the end of July. 

The review panel will be led by Sir Derek Myers, the former Lead Commissioner for Rotherham Council. It has been tasked with providing recommendations and guidelines based on lessons learned for any future pandemic or emergency.

Meanwhile, Guernsey booted out the idea of running a £250,000 independent review, concluding that internal reviews and ones conducted by Scrutiny could be completed for less than a fifth of that cost.  

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Posted by Keith Marsh on
It is a shame that our States Members do not learn from our sister Island, in Guernsey they concluded that a external Covid review was not necessary ~ but "no" Jersey has to spend
£ 500,000 on something we don't need.
We have a fantastic Comptroller and Auditor General in Lynn Pamment who is more than capable of completing such investigation.
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