Setting up virus tests and helping create new innovative treatments – the role Teesside biomedical scientists have played in fighting COVID-19

A health trust is highlighting the role of its biomedical scientists – in a year when they have responded to a global pandemic with a new testing process and the creation of new treatments.

Biomedical scientists involved in a special plasma study for COVID-19.Over the last 12 months biomedical scientists at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust have carried out more than a staggering 100,000 PCR tests for COVID-19.

This was after two of its team members – Emma Swindells and Robyn Turnbull – set up a new testing process in the space of just a month with support from the wider team.

The team have also issued 230 convalescent plasma unit as part of the special RECOVERY trial the Trust is involved in to help find new treatments for the virus.

Pathology team working hard to ensure swift turn around for coronavirus testingAs the Trust marks Biomedical Science Day tomorrow, pathology service manager Sharron Pooley said: “The work our biomedical scientists – as well as our staff across the whole pathology service – have carried out since the virus outbreak has been nothing short of outstanding.

“On top of their normal demanding and highly skilled roles, they have taken on the challenge of setting up a new testing system for coronavirus, performing an enormous number of tests and taking part in an international research study – a study which we as an organisation have excelled in as one of the leading trusts in the country.

“Without this team, we simply would not have been able to innovate and improve as an organisation at a pace of change that we have never seen before – all for the benefit of our patients.

“They have undoubtedly helped save so many lives and improve the health outcomes of so many others in our community and beyond.”

Staff member working on testing sample in labOver the last year the Trust’s biomedical scientists have performed more than 6.4 million tests for medical conditions including cancer, diabetes, blood disorders, meningitis and hepatitis.

Among other statistics over this period, more than 206,000 patients have had blood taken by the phlebotomy team while 14 new point of care devices have started to be used.

The team perform a key role in screening for diseases, identifying those caused by bacteria and viruses and monitoring the effects of medication and other treatments.

They do so using sophisticated automated equipment, microscopes and other hi-tech laboratory equipment and computers.

Staff are also supported with development opportunities – over the last year 17 members of the team have professional or academic qualifications.

Sharron added: “The team are not only highly skilled and dedicated to their roles but they are always open to new ideas and to change.

“We value them and actively support development and progression – with so many members having achieved qualifications over what has been a challenging period during the pandemic.

“I am so proud of the team for everything they do – but never more so than over the last year.”

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