Human Medicine:

MP praises Southwest Pathology Service’s role in the fight against COVID-19

Published: 19th October 2020

The Southwest Pathology Service (SPS) – which has been at the forefront of the national effort to provide potentially life-saving COVID-19 testing – has been commended by the area’s MP.

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow praised the dedication and commitment of our laboratory, a pathology partnership with the NHS, in helping to stem the spread of the disease.

During a tour of the state-of-the-art facility Ms Pow said:

I would like to sincerely thank everyone at the Southwest Pathology Service, all of whom have made a phenomenal contribution to the fight against COVID-19. The laboratory really is the nerve centre of testing for this terrible disease and I have found my visit extremely enlightening.
It is both a professional and a hi-tech operation and the dedication of the team, which has implemented a testing regime that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is outstanding. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Southwest Pathology Service, whose tremendous efforts are proving vital in helping to protect the public during these unprecedented times.

Rebecca Pow MP Taunton Deane

Our Medical Laboratory Assistants, Associate Practitioners and Biomedical Scientists immediately underwent a specialist training programme, culminating in the introduction of a 24/7 shift pattern by the end of the month, enabling vital testing to take place around the clock.

We have continued to innovative over the past six months, significantly increasing capacity to accommodate 1,000 PCR tests per day. The results of this method of testing are available in five hours – putting the laboratory in the top three for turnaround times in the UK.

We have also implemented a fast-track system with capacity to carry out 100 COVID-19 tests per day, where a positive or negative diagnosis can be reached in just 30 minutes. In total, we have conducted 13,000 PCR tests and 1,672 fast-track tests for the NHS in September. Our service also has capacity to provide 1,000 Antibody tests each day and has carried out screening of all health care workers across the Trusts and primary care sector in June and July.

Cutting-edge equipment has been installed, validated and implemented in the laboratory to assist with the COVID-19 operation, while three new testing platforms and five different PCR tests have been introduced.

The role of COVID-19 Pathology Incident Director was introduced to provide a dedicated point of contact between NHS England and NHS Improvement, local Trusts and the Clinical Commissioning Group, overseeing the delivery of the NHS testing regime in Somerset. We have also drawn upon the wider SYNLAB UK & Ireland network to second a Scientific Officer from the Molecular Testing Department at VPG Exeter to help train colleagues to test for COVID-19.

I’m extremely proud of my colleagues across the Southwest Pathology Service who have demonstrated unwavering commitment and dedication in helping to combat the spread of COVID-19. Their ability and willingness to adapt to these unprecedented times has been incredible, enabling the Southwest Pathology Service to play a vital role in the national fight against coronavirus, easing pressure on the NHS and, ultimately, saving lives.
We have innovated and developed our service during the past six months, increasing capacity from a zero base to our current ability to provide 1,000 PCR and Antibody tests and 100 fast-track tests every day. This has been a truly collaborative effort between SYNLAB, the NHS and public health bodies, both nationally and locally, all of which have made a vital contribution to protecting the nation during the most challenging health crisis in living memory.

Lynda Kazer, General Manager, Southwest Pathology Service
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