NHS Grampian has become one of the first health board’s in Scotland to undertake its own Covid-19 testing.
Earlier this week specialist scientists, based at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, began checking and declaring their own patient samples after their methods were nationally approved.
Previously the process was carried out in Glasgow but up to 160 samples can now be tested in Aberdeen each day, with plans to increase that figure in the coming weeks.
NHS Grampian’s consultant and service clinical director for medical microbiology and virology, Noha EL Sakka said: “There is an essential need, in order to manage this outbreak, for having prompt diagnostic technology.
“Prior to Monday we were sending samples to the reference lab and there is a high turnaround time and time is wasted on transportation – that has all been cut-off. It cuts down on work for the lab with packaging and also in terms of reporting results too.
“That is why we tried to streamline things and make the test available as quickly as possible and the process as simple as possible – it ensures we have a prompt and robust system for our patients in NHS Grampian.”
Fiona MacKenzie, Scottish microbiology and virology network manager, added: “When the Covid-19 outbreak first emerged in Scotland and the UK Glasgow and Edinburgh started testing for the whole of Scotland.
“NHS Grampian is one of the first health boards to go live with its own testing.
“It’s great news we’re able to do this but there has been a lot of work.”
Dr El Sakka added: “The massive benefit of this is it cuts out a huge time lag and is easing pressure on our colleagues at the reference lab. We get results locally and faster and this is even more important with patients who require critical care.
“We have changed shift patterns to extend the coverage so we can report results late into the evening and that helps with patient flow and that helps move pressure away from our frontline care teams.”
Dr El Sakka said scientists from the north-east had travelled to the reference lab to witness the process that was being undertaken before beginning work to launch a service in the north-east.
She added: “In order for the lab to introduce the test we had to show that our lab, our staff and the skills we have were capable of producing an accurate result.
“We demonstrated that our samples were accurate. Then Health Protection Scotland was happy for us to start testing on our own form that point onwards.”
Dr El Sakka praised the ability and dedication of her colleagues to get the testing up and running swiftly in the north-east.
“It’s a huge tribute to the dedication and skill of the team we have here in Grampian that we have got to this place so quickly. I’m so proud of the staff and the dedication they have and their commitment.”
Dr MacKenzie, who is a clinical scientist at ARI, added: “In Aberdeen, at NHS Grampian, we have a particularly good skill mix, we have very highly specialised biomedical scientists and medics and we’ve implemented a test here that reflects that skill set. It really is testament to the high level of skill and knowledge our staff here have.”