A leading Bradford GP is behind two private Covid test companies on the official government list that are racking up large numbers of complaints, the Guardian can reveal.
Expert Doctors and Covid Travel Clinics appear to be leaving a trail of unhappy customers who say PCR tests they ordered and paid for have either never arrived or turned up late – with some complaining they have been forced to quarantine for several days longer as a result. Both companies are currently receiving large numbers of one-star reviews on the Trustpilot website.
Waheed Hussain, the lead senior partner at an inner-city NHS medical practice in Bradford, is listed on Companies House as a director of Expert Doctors and the parent company of Covid Travel Clinics.
He is also the director of a third Covid test firm, Doctor Medical Services, set up just three months ago. At the time of writing, according to Trustpilot, every one of eight reviews the firm had received since 3 December was a one-star “bad” evaluation.
All three companies’ websites prominently mention that they are a “listed provider on gov.uk”
The complaints are likely to fuel calls for the government to explain why companies that are apparently leaving customers high and dry have been allowed to carry on promoting their wares on the official list of providers that is scanned by thousands of people every day. Last month PCR tests became mandatory for those entering and returning to the UK.
Hussain’s firms are not the first government-listed Covid test companies to receive complaints, and many are getting bad reviews on Trustpilot. In September, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said buying a PCR test was “a lottery”.
Expert Doctors operates from Bradford and, as of Wednesday 15 December, more than 80% of the 405 reviews of the company on the website Trustpilot were rated “bad”.
In response, Expert Doctors has posted messages on Trustpilot saying: “We have been overwhelmed with recent changes due to the new variant. We are working around the clock to provide the service required. We have had added pressure of logistics such as postal delays.” In some cases it has provided an email address for customers to use so it can “urgently” deal with their queries, and in others it posted a refund link to click on.
Unhappy customers include Will Moran, 25, and his girlfriend, who were obliged to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after returning from a short break in Lanzarote. He went on to the government website on 28 November and booked with Expert Doctors, paying £70 for two day-2 tests.
But on 8 December, four days after his return to the UK, he said the tests had still not turned up, forcing him to pay for a test with another company. Under the new rules, individuals arriving back in the UK have to self-isolate until they have secured a negative result.
He said the Expert Doctors tests finally turned up this week.
“What is the process to get on that government list of providers?” asked Moran. “They aren’t even conducting basic checks on these companies.”
According to the government list, Covid Travel Clinics offers day-2 PCR tests from £15. On Trustpilot as of 15 December, more than half of the 367 reviews of the firm were rated “bad”.
Brett Ascott, 62, who lives in south-west London, ordered a PCR test from Covid Travel Clinics on 30 November as he was leaving for Spain on 4 December and wanted the test to be there when he got home. He said he paid £35, even though the headline price on the government website was £15. “Anyway, no test kit arrived and, despite three emails and calls, they did not respond.”
On 7 December, the day after he arrived back in the UK, Ascott went to a local walk-in centre and paid a further £65 to get a result in 24 hours. He said that when his Covid Travel Clinics test did finally arrive, it was four days too late.
Ascott said the fact that more than 400 companies were on the government list “shows what a money-making cesspit this has all become … I reported this company to the government website, and they replied that they will respond within 25 days.” He added: “Who’s monitoring that they are supplying tests, and their testing procedures? It’s like the wild west.”
In a statement to the Guardian, Covid Travel Clinics said: “We are always striving to provide a responsive and customer-centred service. This month we have experienced a recent surge in orders due to the recent government announcement … Courier companies have also experienced difficulties and delays in delivering the kits to customers on time during this period. We also experienced a significant number of orders with incomplete delivery addresses. We can assure customers that now this surge is being managed by the couriers, and we are not experiencing any delays.” It said it was asking customers requesting a refund to complete a form. “
Our customer support team has been processing these refunds. We would also like to clarify that our price for onsite testing is £15 and, if delivered to the home address, it is £35 for a day-2 test.”
Hussain, 47, is named as lead senior partner on the website of Bradford’s Clarendon Medical Centre, which states he “has experience in … travel immunisations” and has been involved in education, particularly in relation to students from inner-city backgrounds interested in a career in medicine. Another online profile says he has been a GP for more than 13 years.
The directors of Expert Doctors and Clarendon Kensington Healthcare, which is named as the parent company of Covid Travel Clinics, were approached for comment.