Rising costs and material shortages put pressure on overworked UK labs Labmate Online

Increased demand caused by COVID-19 is pushing medical and non-medical labs to their limits, the head of a lab supplies company said, fearing clinical labs have been favored due to the pandemic.

Starlab Group, a European supplier of laboratory products with a UK division, conducted a survey of over 200 laboratory workers from the UK, Germany, Austria, Italy and France.

The ‘mood barometer’ showed that only 23% felt they were adequately stocked with necessary liquid handling equipment, such as protective gloves and pipettes, a figure that has almost halved from last year (39%).

Late deliveries are to blame, according to 64% of those who took part in the survey, with 58% attributing the equipment shortage entirely or mainly to the fact that medical laboratories are favored due to the pandemic. This is a significant increase from the 46% figure recorded last year.

Starlab CEO Klaus Ambos said, “With the emergence of the Omicron variant, infection rates and demand for PCR testing grew so rapidly at the start of the year that labs have long since reached their limitations in terms of equipment 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 which often do not feature in the current discussion at all.

“New mutations and waves of coronavirus have repeatedly created a huge surge in demand. In addition to the already tense situation and high demand, this has resulted in empty warehouses for many producers and distributors.

Mr Ambos said shortages of lab equipment could lead to fewer tests, fewer results and, most importantly, missed research opportunities to discover new mutations of the coronavirus to help prevent deaths in the future.

Denise Fane de Salis, UK Managing Director and Area Manager for Northern Europe, said: “COVID-19 is the biggest but by no means the only challenge facing European laboratories. The mood barometer we ordered once again clearly shows that you have to look at the whole lab work. The laboratory sector is not only essential in medicine and research. Diagnoses have long encompassed almost all areas of life and the economy.

She added, “The whole lab industry has been in a vicious cycle for two years. While more and more materials are needed, there is a lack of supplies. At the same time, labs want to stockpile material, which puts additional pressure on demand, suppliers and prices. Institutes that carry out important basic work cannot cope with the price competition triggered by COVID-19 and are particularly suffering from this situation.

The Starlab survey reports that while 57% said demand for liquid handling products remained more or less the same compared to the first year of the pandemic, 30% reported material needs up to 50% higher last year.

The combination of strong demand, shortages of raw materials and bottlenecks in supply is not without consequences for prices. Three-quarters of all labs (76%) are already experiencing increasing price pressure in their day-to-day work.

Learn more about Starlab’s ‘mood barometer’ survey Click here.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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