Northampton General has launched rapid testing to identify patients with COVID-19 in under four hours.
This new rapid testing method, which started on 22 April, enables samples from patients to be tested in the hospital laboratory. Traditionally swabs have been sent to external testing centres which took an average 48 hours to receive a result; however the new process can be done in less than four hours.
The changes come thanks to the hard work and dedication of the microbiology team, who have been installing the new Luminex Aries® Molecular Diagnostic Platform to test for the virus. The new equipment enables staff to do very precise testing as it targets a gene unique to the COVID-19 virus, meaning the result is highly accurate.
Dr Davis Thomas, Divisional Director, explained how this new facility will help clinicians and patients:
“By having this rapid testing facility on site, we can make sure our patients are on the correct treatment pathway. With a quicker diagnosis, we know which wards our patients need to go to so we can provide the best care for them in the right place. This rapid diagnosis will help our teams to plan for surgery, make the best use of PPE and in some cases help with more difficult discussions on the next steps of patient care. As well as improving our patient experience by having these results back so quickly, we can also contribute to our research work in the NHS in clinical trials being done for treatments for COVID-19.”
“We are incredibly proud of the teams in the laboratory and those in the hospital who have supported us with getting this testing up and running. We have completed over 170 tests in the first three days and hope to scale up this testing soon.”
The test process involves taking swabs from patients from areas where the virus particles are most likely to be found. These are high up in the nostrils and the back of the throat. The whole process only takes a few minutes to do. The swab is then labelled, packed and sent to the laboratory. Once in the laboratory the team use the rapid testing machine to extract and test for the presence of the virus. The result is then delivered back to the clinical teams usually within four hours.
The hospital can test over 100 patients per day and will gradually increase testing capacity in the coming weeks and months.