New Covid testing machines have become operational at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust which will significantly increase Covid testing capacity and speed up the turnaround time for test results.

A high volume testing machine called a PerkinElmer, is now operational and has the potential to undertake around 500 nose and throat swabs tests a day, significantly reducing the number of tests sent to an offsite laboratory.

Until recently the hospital’s existing in-house technology was able to screen up to 40 Covid samples a day with the remaining tests sent to a laboratory in Southampton. A low volume rapid turnaround testing machine is also now operational providing single test results in under an hour and is operational 24/7.

Dr Joel Newman, Laboratory Director, and Clinical Lead for the Sussex Pathology Network, said: “These are game changers for the Trust. They significantly speed up our turnaround time and capacity for Covid testing. With a quicker diagnosis, we know which wards our patients need to go to so we can provide the best care for them in the right place. This rapid diagnosis will help our teams to plan for surgery and in some cases help with more difficult discussions on the next steps of patient care. Previously, our in-house testing was very limited with the vast majority of tests going to Southampton with the obvious delay in the physical transportation of the sample to the laboratory.”

After being installed on site by a team of engineers, the new machines have been verified, with screening results cross-referenced against the existing technology. At the same time pathology staff have been trained to use the new machines.

Dr Newman added: “Our turnaround times will be within 24 hours for all swabs, faster for new admissions, enabling us identify positive patients sooner and act upon on the result. This will helps us minimise the opportunity to spread Covid on to other people and allows us to contain it. We were previously sending tests away which meant it could be up to 48 hours before we knew the results.”