Lancashire hospital lab to lead national coronavirus testing drive

A Lancashire hospital is to become the centre of a ground-breaking facility to test for the Covid-19 virus.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 3:45 pm

At the beginning of April, the Pathology team at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust set up what is known as a PCR test on swabs taken from people with symptoms of Covid-19, to see whether or not they have the virus. This testing is carried out in the microbiology department.

The pathology team has now been asked to become a flagship site, to set up a new Covid-19 antibody testing facility. This test will tell the team whether or not a person has had the disease and give them an understanding of how many of the population have actually been infected. This will assist in the nationwide track and trace initiative.

The test will be performed in the Clinical Biochemistry Laboratory at the Royal Preston Hospital, using the Roche Covid-19 antibody test. Eventually, many labs in the country with Roche equipment will use this test. However, the laboratory at Preston is only one of four laboratories that have been initially chosen to set up and facilitate a testing site for the NHS.

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Royal Preston Hospital, where the Covid-19 antibody testing will take place

The lab at Preston was chosen because it is one of the most highly advanced automated Clinical Biochemistry Laboratories in England, supported by state of the art informatics and operated by highly skilled scientists. The testing will require the collaboration and teamwork of many departments within Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, working together to carry out the test, process the samples, analyse the findings, collate the results and report on the data.

Dr Martin Myers, consultant clinical biochemist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, said: “I am delighted that the Clinical Biochemistry department has been chosen to be in phase 1 for antibody testing in England.

“Our advanced automation will allow us to perform thousands of tests a day. The team work between the Clinical Biochemists and Microbiologists will have a major impact in our fight against this wretched disease and once we have carried out some quality checks, and it is hoped that we will start to prove the service within two weeks.

“I would like to thank the excellent highly skilled scientists and clinicians at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals whose reputation has helped in us being chosen to deliver this service.”