Covid demand has pushed UK laboratories ‘to limit’
22 Feb 2022
A combination of spiralling costs, rising demand and stockpiling strategies has led to ‘empty warehouses’ and a shortage of vital laboratory equipment in the UK, warns a leading supplier company.
The Starlab Group conducted a survey of more than 200 laboratory employees from the UK, Germany, Austria, Italy and France which it said revealed the extent of the crisis in Britain and the continent.
Denise Fane de Salis, Starlab’s UK managing director and area head for Northern Europe, said stockpiling and supply difficulties since the widespread outbreak of COVID two year ago were largely to blame.
She said: “The entire laboratory industry has been in a vicious circle for two years. While more and more material is needed, there is a lack of supplies.
“At the same time, laboratories want to stockpile material, putting additional pressure on demand, suppliers and prices. Institutes that perform important basic work cannot keep up with the price competition triggered by COVID-19 and are particularly suffering from this situation.”
Nearly two thirds of respondents blamed late deliveries for lack of supplies. Fewer than a quarter, meanwhile, felt they were adequately supplied with the necessary liquid handling materials such as protective gloves and pipettes. Last year that figure stood substantially higher, at 39%
A total of 58 per cent of respondents attributed the shortages mainly or entirely to the preference given to medical laboratories owing to the pandemic – again up from last year’s 46 per cent.
Starlab Group CEO Klaus Ambos cautioned that shortages of laboratory material could lead to less testing, fewer results and crucially, missed research opportunities to discover new mutations of the coronavirus to help prevent deaths in the future.
“With the emergence of the Omicron variant, infection rates and demand for PCR tests increased so rapidly at the turn of the year that laboratories have long since reached their limits in terms of materials and personnel. The consequences are radical restrictions on testing and, above all, impacts on the vast majority of laboratories in Europe working in the non-medical sector that often do not feature at all in the current discussion,” he commented.
“New mutations and coronavirus waves have repeatedly created a huge demand surge. In addition to the already tense situation and high demand, this has resulted in empty warehouses for many producers and distributors.”
The company added that there were demonstrable consequences for purchase costs, with more than three quarters of all laboratories (76 per cent) are already experiencing rising price pressure.