Supply shortages continue to delay Covid-19 test results for islanders

NHS Western Isles has confirmed that it is expecting a delivery this week of the cartridges of ‘reagent’ necessary to enable it to use the Covid-19 testing machinery already in the Western Isles, but has no date for when sample bottles of the ‘necessary medium’ to complete tests will be available.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 13th April 2020, 5:23 pm
Updated Monday, 13th April 2020, 5:33 pm

On Friday, Western Isles MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil said that he had raised the issue of a lack of cartridges for use in the Cephid testing machine based in the islands with the Health Secretary and Director of Covid-19 testing at the Scottish Government “to get Isles testing up and running”.

The MP added last week: “”All praise to NHS Western Isles who have done everything they needed to do to be ready for testing, including getting equipment in place and training staff. However, due to the lack of cartridges, tests require to be sent to Glasgow.”

But it has since emerged that the sample bottles required in the tests have also not arrived locally, with the result that the testing and analysis of samples taken in the Western Isles is still being carried out In Glasgow causing a delay in results coming through.

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If the testing equipment on the islands was available, NHSWI has confirmed, test results would be available within hours rather than within 1-2 days, as is currently the situation.

In a statement a spokesperson for NHSWI said: “NHS Western Isles has been in regular contact with NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) regarding the establishment of local testing capacity here in Stornoway.

“Three key steps are important to deliver this capacity and NSS have been leading on all of these on a national basis.

“Firstly, we can confirm that we now have a Cephid machine which will enable us to test for COVID-19 on site.

“Secondly, obtained separately, and which we expect to arrive this week, are the cartridges with the re-agent to insert for the machine to analyse tests.

“Thirdly, we require a reliable supply of sample bottles with the necessary medium.

“Given the worldwide attack and impact of the virus, all of the above have been in unprecedented demand and have therefore not been readily available.

“We currently do not have a date for delivery of the samples bottles specific to the local testing machine.Colleagues across Scotland are working flat out to obtain and deliver the necessary kit.

“In the meantime”, NHSWI’s spokesperson concluded: “NHS Western Isles has access daily to the national testing capacity, so our community can be assured that testing, as recommended, can be carried out.

“The main benefit we will see when the system is fully up and running locally is a significantly shorter turnaround time for the tests: around 3-4 hours, as opposed to between 24 and 48 hours currently.”

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP said: “We are now three and a half weeks since I first asked questions about the testing. I was told then that the testing would be up and running in two weeks, and we are now a week and a half late, and it looks like we are going to be going past two weeks late and we still won’t be testing [in the islands].

“It doesn’t matter if it’s cartridges or bottles or nuts and bottles, if you are not testing, you are not testing. We are not at the races yet, the testing is woeful.

“To say the cartridges were needed and then to say that something else is needed, what is to say that we won’t be told that there is then something else needed after that?”-