23 April 2020
Delivering 24/7 testing for COVID-19
We are proud to be supporting the NHS with 24/7 COVID-19 testing from our Taunton laboratory. Not only does this laboratory provide regional services for NHS patients in Somerset, it is also undertaking COVID-19 testing for the NHS elsewhere in the UK, helping to increase access to much-needed coronavirus tests.
Now into the fifth week of COVID-19 testing, our Taunton laboratory – a pathology partnership with the NHS – has seen a continued increase in test numbers available since the service was introduced in March. Over the coming month, we have plans in place to increase the total number of tests we can deliver to 1,100 each day.
Clinical Trials to evaluate antigen testing
At the same time, we have been gearing up to undertake a series of clinical trials in partnership with the NHS to evaluate the use of ‘antigen’ testing – a more rapid way of testing for COVID-19 within a hospital environment. This new approach could see test results available within 10-20 minutes instead of up to 5 hours. The trials will provide evidence as to the effectiveness of these tests and how they can be used to improve the care of patients with COVID-19, as well as help manage the flow of patients in hospitals.
Leading the race to introduce a reliable antibody test
SYNLAB is also at the heart of developments to introduce a reliable antibody test, which is very much needed across the world to determine who has – or hasn’t – had the virus. Working with a number of partners across Europe to evaluate and validate tests, we are supporting research into how these tests might prove useful clinically in the UK.
Sharing scarce, valuable resources
We have also donated three sets of test kits for two antibody tests to public health bodies in the last week. These kits are in very short supply, and having them will enable public health specialists to evaluate more of the various antibody tests currently under development.
Dr David James, SYNLAB’s Chief Medical Officer, said:
“From the outset, we have been working in collaboration with the NHS and public health bodies, both nationally and locally, to ensure SYNLAB is involved in the national effort to fight coronavirus.”
“I’m incredibly proud of my colleagues, both in our pathology services and elsewhere across the SYNLAB UK & Ireland business. Everyone has made a tremendous effort to respond quickly to the coronavirus pandemic by getting essential resources to the NHS on the front-line, establishing and delivering COVID-19 testing, and supporting international efforts to find a reliable antibody test that can be used here in the UK.”
“It is fantastic that we are now offering COVID-19 tests 24/7 with plans to increase capacity to offer 1,100 tests a day over the coming month. We recognise that what we’re doing is still a fraction of what’s needed overall, but have been really keen to do our bit. We hear that these tests are making a significant difference to patients and to the NHS, and are pleased we have been able to make such an important contribution.”
Jonathan Higman, CEO of Yeovil Hospital, one of SPS’ partners, added:
“Our partnership with Southwest Pathology Services means we have local access to the latest testing facilities and expertise. We’d like to thank our SPS colleagues for the important role they are playing in our response to the coronavirus and our work to keep patients and staff safe.”
More widely, SYNLAB Group is now undertaking more than 20,000 RT-PCR* tests every day around the world. As the situation develops globally, we are gaining new learning, knowledge and understanding from our European laboratories, including those based within Italy, Spain and Germany. We are sharing the latest information with our partners in the NHS and public health to help support the national response to coronavirus here in the UK.
*The RT-PCR test detects the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus
Below is a short video about the sterling efforts of colleagues at Southwest Pathology Services to implement COVID-19 testing 24/7, and how they have been supported by colleagues from our veterinary laboratory in Exeter which sits within SYNLAB’s Veterinary Pathology Group (VPG).
This short clip shows Andy Lawton, Team Manager for Virology and Molecular Testing, preparing COVID-19 samples for testing at Southwest Pathology Services, which is run by SYNLAB in partnership with the NHS.
Andy works within a microbiological safety cabinet with special ventilation to keep him safe.