The microbiology team at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is on the move in a one of a kind ‘lab in a van’, as part of a government pilot looking at a rapid test for Coronavirus.

The new test, in collaboration with Optigene, does not need to take place in a traditional laboratory setting and return results within 20 minutes. 

Having a mobile, rapid test could lead to significant improvements in early diagnosis of COVID-19 and means healthcare providers can take quick action to provide the most appropriate care for patients. Lab in motion.JPG

The pilot is taking the test out into the community to care homes and GP assessment centres, as well the trust’s two emergency departments in Basingstoke and Winchester.

In the two weeks where the ‘lab in motion’ has been in the community, the team visited eight care homes and tested 255 people, including patients and staff. The trial then took the mobile laboratory to a GP Covid-19 assessment centre, whilst the near-patient arm of the pilot taking place in the two emergency departments has conducted 1,500 tests on patients. 

Clinical scientist Stephen Kidd, who has been leading the pilot, said: “This is a really exciting project, looking at how we can most effectively use this innovative technology to have the biggest impact on patients and local communities.

“We have been working really hard and are learning all the time. The pilot has been a success so far, and we are looking forward to reviewing the data with our colleagues to see if and how this could be rolled out further.”

Alex Whitfield, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals, said: “Our microbiology department has led the way in COVID-19 testing from the beginning, and we are exceptionally proud of everything they have achieved.

“As a trust, we are committed to providing the best possible care to our patients and to do everything in our hands to help our local community - this pilot has enabled us to do just that, whilst having the potential to be rolled out across the country.”

The van, being the only one of its kind in the country, is currently only being used to test for COVID-19, but could have further uses to support hospital staff in providing essential care. Dr Rebecca Houghton, part of the ‘lab in motion’ team, talked about future implementations.

Dr Houghton added: “This approach has the potential to be used for testing a wide range of infections in multiple different situations including care homes, work places and localised outbreaks. It’s really exciting to see how we could use data from this pilot to make a real difference to the way we diagnose infection and manage outbreaks.”

Basingstoke hospital was also the first non-PHE lab to test for COVID-19, led by Stephen Kidd and thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of the entire microbiology department, from clinical scientists and the laboratory team to volunteers from academia and industry as well as the staff on the wards.

To take a virtual tour of the lab, visit: