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Channel 4 praise Dispatches for ‘fearless journalism’

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Channel 4 praise Dispatches for ‘fearless journalism’

The programme in question saw an investigation into Covid testing firm Randox which sparked a major health and safety probe…

A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary which the company said contained “underhand, deceptive, dishonest and defamatory” claims identified serious failings at one of the country’s largest Covid-testing laboratories and sparked a major investigation by health and safety regulators that led to medical firm Randox being directed to take immediate action to address significant safety concerns and to address underlying management failures.

Reporter Antony Barnett who presented the programme, Lockdown Chaos: How the Government Lost Control:

“During this key period,  the government’s test and trace system was playing a critical part of trying to get control of the virus. Our decision to send an undercover reporter into Randox’s testing facility was made in the public interest and revealed serious concerns over what was going on. Yet rather than accept our evidence of serious failings, Randox said this was “hatchet job journalism of the worst kind”.  On the contrary, we are pleased to learn that today,  health and safety regulators who inspected the Randox facility backed up our public interest investigation and took immediate action.”

The revelation emerged in today’s [24/3/22] publication of the National Audit Office [NAO]report into the awarding of £500m worth of government contracts to Randox for testing services. The report criticised key elements of how the contracts were awarded –  including lack of transparency – but said it had not seen any evidence they were improperly awarded.

The NAO also disclosed concerns over Randox’s performance and cited the Channel 4 programme Lockdown Chaos: How the Government Lost Control which aired in November 2020 and that sent an undercover reporter to work at the firm’s  Northern Ireland facility as part of its examination of the Government’s NHS Test and Trace system.

The undercover footage provided evidence of Covid tests being accidentally discarded, tests leaking out of vials,  and the potential of cross-contamination of tests that could potentially lead to individuals getting the wrong test results.

At the time Randox strongly disputed the findings of our programme saying they were “underhand, deceptive, dishonest and defamatory”  but today the NAO reveals that following our programme the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) conducted a visit to the Randox site. On 9 December 2020 it directed the site management to take immediate action to address “significant safety concerns”, both COVID-19-related and general, observed at the site.

The site was revisited by HSENI two days later and identified continued “serious issues “that led to an urgent meeting with senior management of the site. A meeting was held on 12 December 2020 between Randox, HSENI and other relevant government bodies to identify actions necessary to address the observed issues and “underlying management failures”.  The NAO reported that by 16 December, Randox was Covid-19 compliant.

Louisa Compton, Head of News and Current Affairs, Specialist Factual and Sport, Ch4:

“This is another fantastic example of fearless journalism working in the public interest to expose serious failings at a moment of critical importance during the pandemic. Dispatches aims to shift the news agenda and make an impact; this investigation did just that.”

Lockdown Chaos: How the Government Lost Control  is available to watch now on All 4

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