Nearly 500 Covid-19 tests results lost since testing began, says HSE

Health service says losing a test result ‘extremely rare’

The results of almost 500 Covid-19 tests have been lost since testing began last March, the HSE has said.

Figures obtained by The Irish Times show 490 results could not be located over the past year.

The HSE said it is “an extremely rare occurrence” and is caused by “the person’s contact details not getting transferred fully into the lab system or the sample itself not being delivered to the lab”.

Hospital Report

“If a person has not received their test result within 48 hours they can contact us via HSELive,” the HSE said in a statement. “We immediately undertake a full search of our testing and laboratory systems and in the overwhelming majority of cases the result is located within 24 hours.


“However, in some cases, we need to track back through the original referral, test centre, laboratory and through our results database before we finally determine that a result cannot be located.

“This is an extremely rare occurrence with 0.014 per cent (490) results not being located from the total of over 3.3 million tests we have completed.”

Testing process

The HSE said it is working “very hard” to improve the Covid-19 testing process so that all results can be reported to patients and their GPs “in a timely way”.

Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane acknowledged it was "inevitable" there would be some problems in "a system where you're dealing with tens of thousands of cases on a monthly basis".

"The point I would make is obviously it should be kept to a minimum, there should be processes in place to prevent this from happening. Mistakes will be made but we have to make sure that when they happen, that we learn from them, that the system is improved and we can then reduce down the numbers of lost information," the Waterford TD said.

“It all goes back to the fact that we had to put a system in place from scratch. We were scrambling at the start of this pandemic to have an IT and to have a test and trace system in place and it was never perfect. There was always issues in relation to capacity and then the system became overwhelmed when we had very high cases.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times