An Aberdeen hospital has become the first in Scotland to carry out coronavirus tests – speeding up the time it takes to get results.
Up until now, people suspected of having Covid-19 would have to have a sample sent off to a lab in Glasgow or Edinburgh and wait up to two days for results – but Aberdeen Royal Infirmary can now get them within seven hours.
They use a machine from South Korea that can do 160 tests a day.
However, that is understood to be far fewer tests than is currently needed in the north-east.
NHS Grampian said it is expecting a second machine to arrive in the coming days – and will then be able to carry out up to 600 tests a day.
Doctors believe the machines will allow patients to be processed more quickly and take pressure off other services.
“Before 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,” said Noha EL Sakka, NHS Grampian’s consultant and service clinical director for medical microbiology and virology.
She 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.
“That helps with patient flow – and that helps move pressure away from our frontline care teams.
“It cuts down on work for the lab with packaging and also in terms of reporting results too.
“It ensures we have a prompt and robust system for our patients in NHS Grampian.”
Fiona MacKenzie, Scottish microbiology and virology network manager based at ARI, added: “When the Covid-19 outbreak first emerged in Scotland and the UK, Glasgow and Edinburgh started testing for the whole of Scotland.
“It’s great news we’re able to do testing here but there has been a lot of work.”
Dr El Sakka said scientists from the north-east had travelled to the reference lab in the central belt to witness the testing process before introducing tests here.
She added: “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 from 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.
She said: “It’s a huge tribute to the dedication and skill of the team 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.”