Doncaster hospital steps up battle against coronavirus by doubling tests and researching best treatment

They are at the forefront of the battle against coronavirus – and this week the doctors and nurses are stepping up a gear.

By David Kessen
Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 2:23 pm

Following the delivery of new diagnostic equipment, the microbiology team at Doncaster Royal Infirmary are set to double the number of tests for the deadly virus.

And at the same time, staff will be starting scientific tests to help doctors learn what is the most effective way to treat to virus.

This week saw new diagnostic equipment delivered to the hospital, which should mean it is able to carry out 100 tests a day on staff and patients for signs of the respiratory virus.

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Richard Parker with research staff at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Throughout March, Doncaster and Basstlaw Teaching Hospitals had relied on Sheffield hospitals to undertake testing for patients.

With limited capacity, this meant round 50 swabs were taken daily. But with its own kit in place, the organisation will more than double its ability to uncover or rule out cases of the fast-spreading illness.

The Covid-19 test is able to detect the virus by analysing samples obtained on extra-long cotton buds that are inserted up the nose or into the back of the throat. Specialists, like those from DBTH’s resident microbiology and laboratory teams, can then process the result using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) techniques - a scientific process which takes a few hours to confirm whether the swab is either positive or negative.

It means the hospital will be ablt to carry out around 100 tests for itself, plus Montagu and Bassetlaw Hospitals. Testing is also available for hospital staff who show symptoms, and also in some cases, their families, allowing doctors to rapidly diagnose those who must stay at home and self-isolate, as well as clear those who are able to come in to work safely and continue to deliver high quality care.

Michael Leng

Richard Parker OBE, chief executive at the trust, said said he was thrilled that the tests were now being carried out on site

He said: “One of the challenges in the fight against Coronavirus has been reduced staffing levels, as anyone with a suspected case of the infection must self-isolate as a precautionary measure.

“Now that we can deliver in-house testing and analysis, using a nationally recognised and highly reliable method, we are able to obtain the result more quickly and staff can be confident if they need to self-isolate, or if they are able to safely return to work to continue to help us save lives.”

On-site testing began at the trust last week, with hundreds of patients and NHS workers already swabbed and tested for the Covid-19.

Doncaster Royal Infirmary staff in one of the rooms that has been convered to intensive care accommodation

Meanwhile, as part of a national project, the hospital’s research and development team is carrying out trials to see which potential Covid-19 treatments are most reliable.

Many different health organisations across the country are participating in the study, which will assess the effectiveness of various drugs that have been identified by experts as ‘promising’ treatments for the virus’ symptoms.

These medicines are already being used to remedy other conditions, such as malaria or HIV, but it is now being suggesting that they may also be able to help with the global pandemic.

The purpose of the trial is to find out which of these repurposed drugs will be most beneficial and what the right dosage would be. This will be achieved by comparing the results of each of them, and then pooling the findings together with those from other hospitals.

The trust will be giving patients who have been admitted, tested and diagnosed with the virus the opportunity to take part in this study. In order for the trial to be successful, doctors will be relying on eligible patients agreeing to receive one of the different medications, all of which are routinely available as they are used for other conditions.

Eligible patients will receive an information sheet that contains more details and, if the patient agrees to participate in the trial, they will be given a 10 day course on a specifically allocated drug.

In all cases the patient will be prescribed medication from the list at random to see if it is effective, and this will be supplemented with the usual treatment that would be provided for those admitted with Covid-19.

DBTH’s newly appointed deputy director of research and innovation and consultant surgeon, Tim Wilson, said: “As with most viruses there is no known cure for Covid-19, but established treatments for other conditions may be able to help patients recover more quickly and with fewer problems. This unprecedented study will enable us to test these treatments, in a way that could make a huge difference in the fight against the illness.”

The Trust will be asking patients who have been hospitalised with a positive Covid-19 test to take part, provided that they are over the age of 18 and have no other clinical concerns raised by their the senior doctor.

To-date, health doctors at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals have been able to discharge 63 patients who were being treated for coronavirus.

Dr Tim Noble, medical director, said: “Throughout the past few weeks, every single member of staff has worked with one single purpose in mind to ensure we are in the best shape possible to meet the challenges of Covid-19. It is no understatement to say that they are doing an outstanding job in these extraordinary times.

“Please do all you can to support them – stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

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