9 March 2021

Vaccination is widely recognised as the fastest route out of the COVID-19 pandemic – but a robust testing regime is also vital to the full restoration of all health services.

Early in the pandemic, a testing service was established in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. That service now provides tests for patients ahead of planned surgery and other treatments and procedures in the county’s hospitals. It also offers a testing service for health and care staff, and members of their households, who are experiencing covid symptoms. Other groups getting access to the team include teachers, school children and businesses experiencing covid outbreaks.

The service is provided by Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust, with the testing of the swabs performed by the lab teams at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

It remains a key component in the efforts to contain and manage the coronavirus – so much so, that funding has now been agreed to ensure the service continues for the next 12 months.

Steve Gregory, Executive Director of Nursing and Operations at Shropcom, said: “The testing team was set up at the start of the pandemic and has grown to the stage that it now provides anything from 450 to 650 COVID tests a week.

“More than half of this activity is providing tests for people who are due to come into hospital for planned medical interventions, ensuring that procedures have been able to go ahead safely and reducing the risk of in-hospital outbreaks.

“An important part of the work has also been to provide a service for health and care workers across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin. Offering them – or members of their household – a test as soon as they have experienced symptoms means we have been able to identify cases quickly and prevent wider spread to colleagues that could have impacted on services.

“It really has been an absolutely crucial part of our coronavirus strategy, and I am delighted that we have been able to secure the funding for another 12 months. It gives certainty to the team working in the service, and confidence for people due to come into hospital.”

The testing team is managed by Leeanne Morgan, who was redeployed from her role of Ward Manager at Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital to take on the role.

Leeanne said: “I am delighted that the funding is now in place to continue this vital service. Having the assurance that the team will be in place for the next year will really help us with recruitment and retention.

“I’m so proud of everyone that has worked in this service so far. They have all done an incredible job and deserve to be recognised for that. It’s been busy and it’s been challenging at times, but I know everyone has pulled together and is proud to be playing a part in tackling this awful virus.”

Lynne Morris, Locality Clinical Manager responsible for the Testing Service, said: “I have been impressed at how flexible and responsive the team have been to supporting outbreaks and ensuring that the service has run seven-days-a-week in both Shrewsbury and Telford to meet the needs of our staff and local population, despite workforce challenges.

“The investment in continuing with this critical testing service is important to support the full restoration of all health services. A huge thank you to our partner organisations and to our estates, laboratory, infection control and PPE teams for all their support.”