Major scaling-up of coronavirus testing in Devon

Lab technicians handle suspected COVID-19 samples as they carry out a diagnostic test for coronaviru

Lab technicians handle suspected COVID-19 samples as they carry out a diagnostic test for coronavirus. - Credit: PA

Testing for Covid-19 is being scaled up dramatically in Devon.

The Royal Devon & Exeter (RD&E) Hospital has worked ‘around the clock’ to set up a rapid testing laboratory in its emergency department, and all patients admitted to the hospital are being tested.

An external testing centre, mainly for NHS staff who are currently self-isolating, is being set up at the Exeter Chiefs rugby ground and operated by the Devon Freewheelers.

They will take swabs from people who have been referred for tests by the RD&E, in the safety of their own cars, and transport the samples to the hospital.

The trust has also been commissioned to test more than 2,000 care home residents in Devon, and these tests will be carried out by the Freewheelers.

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The RD&E has used cutting-edge microbiology facilities and worked with the University of Exeter Medical School to scale up its testing abilities.

It is one of only four hospitals in the country that can provide the rapid Point-of-Care (POC) tests, now being carried out 24 hours a day in the emergency department.

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Medical director, Professor Adrian Harris, said: “Testing for the virus is at the heart of our response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“By testing all our in-patients and the residents of care homes we can minimise the risk of transmission, and by testing our staff we can make sure that we can help people return to work as soon as it is safe for them to do so.

“Clinical and non-clinical teams have worked around the clock, tirelessly and selflessly collaborating to provide an absolutely outstanding Covid-testing service.

“Our portering team has been superb in making sure that the test samples are collected and delivered smoothly from across the hospital.

“I want to pay tribute to all our staff and our partners at the university and also Devon Freewheelers who have been helping to carry out the swab testing in the community and hospital.

“I would also like to thank the Exeter Chiefs for their generous help in providing the facilities for the drive through testing centre.

“It’s been an incredible collective effort, in the most challenging of circumstances.”

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