NHS Western Isles has today (Monday) commenced testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection.

Following local validation to national standards, the Western Isles Hospital laboratory is now accepting samples for testing, with an anticipated turnaround time of approximately three hours, compared to one or more days when testing has previously had to be undertaken on the mainland.

During the next couple of days, sampling packs will be distributed to the Uists and to Barra, rolling out access to the Stornoway Laboratory testing service across the islands.

The machine capacity will be a maximum of 64 tests a day.

The following categories of patients will be offered testing as per current national guidance:

Individuals requiring hospital admission with

  • Clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia or
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome or
  • Influenza like illness (fever ≥37.8°C and at least one of the following respiratory symptoms, which must be of acute onset: persistent cough (with or without sputum), hoarseness, nasal discharge or congestion, shortness of breath, sore throat, wheezing, sneezing).
  1. Any patient in hospital (whether a new admission or existing patient) with new respiratory symptoms, fever or worsening of a pre-existing respiratory condition.
  2. Any symptomatic resident or staff member in a care home for whom, following clinical assessment, testing is considered appropriate.
  3. Symptomatic key health, social care or Category 1 workers, or symptomatic household members of such workers where a negative test would allow an earlier return to work from self-isolation.
  4. People being admitted to care homes from home, hospital or other location.

In addition, following discussion with Health Protection, hospital clinicians will be able to offer testing to patients being admitted to a Western Isles hospital for any reason, and GPs and community physicians will be able to offer testing to people they see in primary care with symptoms of COVID-19 infection so that we can gain a better picture and clearer understanding of the local spread of the virus.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson said: “Being able to test for COVID-19 here in the Western Isles marks a very welcome step forward for us.

"Local testing with a shorter timeframe for the results will allow us to manage patient demand better, and to inform patients and their families of results sooner than before.”