Bupa launches hair analysis drug tests

Health firm Bupa has launched a new hair analysis test that, it says, can tell if an employee has taken drugs up to three months previously.

The move comes amid growing controversy over the use of drug tests at work, with reports of employers increasingly using them to dismiss staff cheaply during the recession.

Bupa Wellness has said its new hair test will be provided by drug testing company Psychemedics Corporation.

Dr Jenny Leeser, clinical director of occupational health for Bupa Wellness, said: “The advantage of hair analysis is that drugs remain in the human hair shaft for up to 90 days, so even if an employee abstains from taking drugs for a few weeks before the test, they will still be detected. Such tests are particularly important for people working in the aviation industry, railway and manufacturing companies.”

But the charity Release, in a report in the Guardian newspaper in May, said it had seen a four-fold year-on-year increase in calls to its drugs team about problems with workplace testing in the first three months of this year.

In many cases, callers said they had been tested for the first time after years in the same job and that, often, it came only after a programme of voluntary redundancies had been announced, with the medicals for the remaining staff.

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