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Gareth Pierce, Senior Biomedical Scientist

UHNM’s pathology team are no strangers to handling dangerous diseases, but Covid-19 was a new challenge. Since the start of the pandemic they have processed approximately 245,000 specimens for Covid-19 by PCR and more than 37,000 Covid-19 antibody tests. Gareth Pierce-Wilding, Senior Biomedical Scientist and Microbiology Quality Lead, has spoken about the team’s experience during COVID-19.

Gareth said: “I happily volunteered to help when in-house Covid-19 testing began. To begin with, while training and implementing the testing was stressful, the number of samples coming in was relatively low, with only targeted testing being done, but this quickly changed when the number of positive samples increased.

“Due to national efforts to allow for resilience in laboratories kits, reagents and consumables were allocated. This meant we had a small capacity for lots of different tests, but not a huge capacity for any single one. The staff working in the Covid-19 lab have worked so hard throughout the pandemic and this is reflected in our ability to adapt to changing workloads and the needs of the trust.

“While some departments may have had some respite when lockdowns were eased and the numbers of positive patients were reducing, we did not feel the pressure drop. The workload has remained relatively consistent given that Covid-19 testing is part of the pre-surgical screening.

“A year on, although we are all tired, we have shown that working as a team, we have been able to develop rapidly to provide the service that the trust needs and are capable of adapting again in the future to meet what the remainder of this pandemic may throw at us. While testing for Covid-19 is only a small part of what we do, it has opened up conversations about testing, allowing for people to learn and understand more of what we do, which can’t be a bad thing.

“Now that allocation of testing kits, reagents and consumables is being reviewed, processes for testing will be more standardised. This will help us to keep the turnaround times as low as possible, and reduce the enormous pressure that has been felt by all staff working in the Covid lab. As with all testing, we continually review our processes with the wards and patients in mind, to ensure that the testing service we provide is as good as we can make it. We have a fantastic team, who have been tested to the max, and have shown that together we are extremely resilient.”