16 Apr, 2020

The Francis Crick Institute has announced that it is repurposing its laboratory facilities to provide a testing facility that will play a key role in supporting NHS staff testing for COVID-19.

Senior scientists at Health Services Laboratories (HSL) have worked with UCLH’s clinical virology department, to ensure the testing facility is reliable. HSL, an independent laboratory network, which is a partnership between The Doctors Laboratory (TDL), UCLH and the Royal Free Hospital group, has been providing COVID-19 testing for the most seriously affected patients in all its partner and client hospitals since the outbreak began. HSL is currently assessing new methodologies to expand the range and volume of tests it can offer.

Across the country, a significant proportion of healthcare workers are self-isolating with suspected symptoms or because family members are ill, adding pressure to frontline services. This new access to reliable testing will give staff the information they need to know whether they can safely return to work.

Testing is an essential part of the national effort to tackle the spread of COVID-19 virus. Dr Rachael Liebmann, Vice-President at the Royal College of Pathologists and Group Medical Director at HSL said: “Health Services Laboratories is delighted to have supported the Crick, as well as testing patients for COVID-19 in all the hospitals we serve. As diagnostic laboratories, this is our main function. Pathology testing laboratories are frequently overlooked but now it is becoming clear to politicians and to the public alike, we have a crucial role to play in the healthcare of the nation.”

Paul Nurse, Director of the Crick said: “Institutes like ours are coming together with a Dunkirk spirit – small boats that collectively can have a huge impact on the national endeavour.” The Institute estimates that by early next week, scientists should have the capacity to be conducting around 500 tests a day or 3,000 a week. In the longer term, researchers are aiming for 2,000 a day. They will aim to provide results within 24 hours, to enable NHS staff to return to work as quickly as possible.

Starting with hospitals in north London, the Crick will also offer its testing to other hospitals.  The testing method used at the Crick, which involves using open platforms, has been compared and verified against the national standard. The methodology is flexible, allowing for slight variations in technique where necessary, which should help protect it against global shortages of reagents and equipment.

HSL is a partnership between The Doctors Laboratory, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (the Royal Free London) and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH)

Health Services Laboratories
Health Services Laboratories
Health Services Laboratories