Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing turnaround times and capacity must be the Scottish Government’s priority, a review of the testing strategy has found.
The review into the government’s COVID-19 testing strategy by clinical and scientific leads has advised that routine testing should also be expanded to protect those at high risk and highlights that Scotland is on track to increase overall testing capacity to 65,000 tests per day by winter.
The clinical and scientific review of the testing strategy has been published by the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Nursing Officer, National Clinical Director, Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Scientist (Health) and comes ahead of the publication of the Strategic Framework to suppressing the virus.
In order to increase testing capacity the Scottish Government is working with NHS National Services (NSS) and relevant health boards to create three new regional laboratory hubs. The hubs will open during November and December and when fully functional will provide at least an additional 22,000 tests per day for NHS Scotland.
The hubs will be used in the first instance to process care home staff testing and provide capacity and resilience to health boards throughout the winter and beyond.
Chief Nursing Officer Professor Fiona McQueen said:
“NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system is performing well, even with rising cases and the country is on track to expand overall testing capacity to 65,000 tests per day by winter.
“However, while the full extent of the pandemic in Scotland over the winter months is currently unknown, it is crucial that there is a greater focus on reducing test turnaround times so that we can further reduce transmission by enabling timely contact tracing and isolation of close contacts. Initiatives such as the additional NHS Scotland regional labs will go some way towards this.
“It is also vital that additional testing capacity is used to protect the most vulnerable, this includes prioritising additional routine testing to reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission within care homes. This could include extending routine testing to visiting care home staff, and designated care home visitors as well as to those who provide care at home services.
“We are also recommending the expansion of testing healthcare workers, with a focus on those caring for high risk patient groups and potentially in areas where there is higher community prevalence.”
NHS Scotland Lab Hubs:
The three hubs will be located in space previously occupied by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (part of NSS). This includes sites at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow, Lauriston Place in Edinburgh and Foresterhill in Aberdeen. All three are scheduled to open between mid-November and December.