Local hospitals undertake more than 150,000 COVID-19 tests

Last month, the Microbiology team at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) completed their 150,000th Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, one of the most common screening tools for COVID-19.

Early on within the pandemic, the Trust had relied on its partners at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals to undertake testing for patients, however with limited capacity, this meant that around only 50 swabs sent from DBTH could be scrutinised for the illness.

Thanks to some quick thinking and planning by the organisation’s Microbiology team, the Trust was able to take delivery of new equipment, providing DBTH with in-house testing.   This was up and running by April 2020, with patients and staff alike benefitting from the innovative technology.

The PCR test is able to detect the virus by analysing samples obtained on extra-long cotton buds that are inserted up the nose and into the back of the throat. Specialists, like those from DBTH’s resident Microbiology laboratory team, can then process the result using real-time PCR techniques – a scientific method which creates a large amount of copies of a specific target, amplifies it and analyses  it in detail. In all, the process takes a few hours to confirm whether the swab is positive or negative.

A key tool in the Trust’s fight against COVID-19, this in-house test has been measured as having a sensitivity (chance of producing true negatives) of 98% and a specificity (chance of producing true positives) of 96%. Due to improvements in efficiency and hard work, the average turnaround time from patient to completed test is now on average, 11 hours, with hundreds carried out each and every day.

Speaking about the achievement, Michael Leng, Head Biomedical Scientist in Microbiology, said: “Throughout the pandemic our Microbiology team has worked night and day to ensure that we are identifying COVID-19 as early as possible, returning tests quickly and accurately. The amount of work involved cannot be underestimated and I’m extremely proud of their efforts since March 2020 – they have evidenced just how important this particular function is within any hospital, and they have been instrumental in keeping both our patients and colleagues safe. Thank you and well done!”

In addition to PCR testing, the Trust now has access to a range of rapid testing options, including molecular tests which offer an alternative fast and portable way to detect SARS-CoV-2 infection. This is also complemented by the requirement for all front-line staff to undertake twice weekly lateral flow testing, which is primarily used to detect any asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

Since March 2020, 3,500 COVID-19 positive patients have been treated at across Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Bassetlaw Hospital and Montagu Hospital. Since that time, 2,640 individuals have been safely discharged to continue their recovery at home, whilst 828 have sadly passed away.