COVID-19: Testing capacity at Ninewells ramping up

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The virology laboratory at Ninewells Hospital has more than doubled its COVID-19 testing capacity after taking delivery of a new analyser from South Korea.

Health Protection Scotland ordered several analysers from South Korea for use in NHS laboratories across Scotland. Ninewells received its new equipment two weeks ago which is now installed and ready for use in the virology laboratory, the first laboratory in Scotland to have this type of analyser.

Since testing began in the Ninewells laboratory in March, the numbers of samples processed steadily increased from 40 per day to around 300 per day. With the addition of the new analyser, capacity has now increased to almost 700 per day.

A further two analysers have also been ordered which will again double the capacity to 1400 samples each day, ensuring that the virology laboratory is able to meet the future demand for testing.

The new state-of-the-art analysers use the latest real-time technology, reducing the time taken from sampling to testing by roughly half. The system can be used on a broad range of specimens and is fully automated, requiring minimum hands-on time and helping to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries to staff.

Chris Hind, Clinical Laboratory Manager, Access Laboratories, said, “These analysers will further support the great work of the NHS Tayside testing team. They will allow us to test more patients, more key workers and more care home residents, and ensure the Tayside Virology team remains at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus.

“This analyser will also support the Scottish Government priorities of ‘Test and Protect’, giving a shorter turnaround time to allow rapid reporting to the medical, nursing, infection prevention and control, and health protection teams.

“More patients can be tested faster and have their results reported faster thanks to the hard work of the virology laboratory scientists and the state of the art analysers NHS Tayside has secured, and also be given the assurance that they are in safe hands with NHS Tayside.”

Ninewells was the third laboratory in Scotland to begin providing diagnostic testing for COVID-19, along with labs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The team of 13 highly trained technical staff quickly adapted and changed from its normal working pattern to a new seven-day testing service to meet the rising demand of coronavirus testing in Tayside.

This allowed NHS Tayside to become the first Health Board in the country to test health and social care staff and their household contacts, as well as other key workers. Over 5000 staff samples have been tested by the virology laboratory since this was launched on 18 March.

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