Government admits 50 companies were in VIP corridor for testing and tracing | health policy

The government has admitted to putting 50 companies on a “priority” path to securing billions worth of testing and tracing contracts, including scandal-involved Immensa. 43,000 false negative results.

United kingdom health The security agency has revealed the names of 50 companies to the Good Law Project, a campaign organization that has successfully challenged the government’s VIP corridor for personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts in the courts.

The names of companies and organizations on the list range from universities such as Oxford and major medical suppliers such as Roche and Innova to much smaller, sometimes more recently, companies. These include Immensa, founded in May 2020which is under investigation by the UKHSA over one of its laboratories, which gave at least 43,000 people potentially false negative Covid-19 test results.

The UKHSA disclosure does not reveal how companies and organizations will be referred to the priority track, but is likely to raise questions about whether the process is similar to the VIP fast track that has been there for ministers and senior officials to recommend companies for PPE offers.

An email sent by a senior government employee in 2020 stated that there was an email address dedicated to offers to supply PPE from people recommended by a minister or senior official. That was later publicly confirmed That there is a ‘VIP Corridor’ or ‘high priority route’ for displays of personal protective equipment, where more initial attention has been given to those companies that have been referred by ministers, MPs or officials.

The same email, sent by Max Cairnduff, director of procurement at the Cabinet Office, also referred to Covid testing, saying there was a separate dedicated email where offers would be “sorted”. He added: “If they come from a ministry/private office, please put FASTTRACK at the beginning of the subject line.”

When this email surfaced in June 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denied running any VIP process for companies or organizations referred by ministers for potential Covid contracts, saying: “These claims are completely false – there has been no high priority path to testing suppliers. Passed All test offerings had the same robust confirmation checks and there was no separate “fast track process.”

However, more evidence emerged later in September 2021 in the form of internal emails between civil servants at DHSC. They discussed the Rapid Testing Group (RTC), a group of companies led by York-based Abingdon Health, which has been awarded massive government contracts without competitive bidding, and described the process as a “VIP track”. Officials described the then Minister of Health, Lord Bethel, as the “sponsor” of the consortium.

Joe Maugham, director of The Good Bill, said: Here are 50 very important companies whose existence the government has categorically denied. We are now looking for the names of the ministers or others who referred them to the VIP lane. On what basis were their priorities set? “

A government spokesperson said: “The pandemic was unprecedented and we moved quickly to build the UK’s largest testing network from scratch that can process millions of tests per day, helping to break chains of transmission and save lives.

The screening process was intended to prioritize trusted suppliers, and all 50 companies were assessed before contracts were awarded, in line with strict procurement regulations and transparency guidelines. Any suggestion that a referral via this route resulted in a contract is wrong.”

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