Whiston Hospital scientists work round clock to deliver Covid-19 test results in hours

Hospital scientists are working round the clock to deliver hundreds of coronavirus testing results, some within 90 minutes.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 11:22 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 4:10 pm
Lydia Newhall, a trainee biomedical scientist (BMS) in pathology, prepares Covid-19 tests for analysis in the laboratory at Whiston Hospital

Biomedical scientist Lydia Newhall, from the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, is one of a team working in a 24-hour laboratory testing samples from NHS patients and staff for coronavirus.

She told the PA news agency they deal with more than 1,000 samples in a day, with tests being turned round within 24 hours.

A small proportion of tests, in cases when they have been requested by a consultant, can be carried out in 90 minutes, she said.

Rachel Miranda, a medical laboratory assistant (MLA), prepares Covid-19 tests for analysis in the laboratory at Whiston Hospital

She said: “Every week the number of tests is just getting more and more, I can’t even describe how many boxes we’ve got in today.

“Last night I had over 600 samples just on the night shift so you’re talking over 1,000 now a day.

“The past three or four weeks it has been a huge increase in positive cases, especially the past week or two.”

The laboratory, based at Whiston Hospital, is one of only a few NHS microbiology labs in the country to operate throughout the night.

Rhenald Fernandez, a pathology trainee biomedical scientist (BMS) in microbiology, prepares Covid-19 tests for analysis in the laboratory at Whiston Hospital

The scientist, who has worked at the hospital full-time for two years, has gone from working day shifts as she completes her training to covering all hours to deal with the increased workload.

She said some colleagues were off work because they had to isolate, or in some cases had contracted coronavirus, meaning even more pressure on the existing team.

“The pressure’s built up more recently.

“Everyone has felt a bit like ‘oh here we go again’ and this time it is worse than it was in April,” she said.

Staff wear masks, two lab coats and two pairs of gloves, all of which are changed regularly, while working in the lab, which is classed as containment level three.

But Miss Newhall said many people do not realise the work which is being done there.

She said: “We work behind the scenes, we don’t have any patient contact and no one really sees what happens to the samples even on the ward side, they just send off and they get a result back, they don’t really see the in between part of it.

“I think Covid has highlighted the importance of testing and pathology as a whole really.”