Drive-through coronavirus testing centre opens in Livingston for NHS staff and carers as Edinburgh centre up to '100 tests a day'
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The new facility at West Lothian College is providing appointment-based nose and throat swab tests from Thursday, April 23rd.
NHS Lothian also revealed that more than 2,300 Covid-19 tests have been carried out – 100 tests a day on average - at the drive-through facility at the Chalmers Sexual Health Centre in Edinburgh, since it opened on March 26th.
The health authority say the testing centres provide reassurance to staff and help to reduce unnecessary absence and bolster frontline services.
It means NHS staff or health and social care workers with symptoms - including council or private sector care home staff – can get results within 72 hours. If they test negative, and it’s appropriate, they can be released from the requirement to isolate and return to work, as can those in their household.
Workers can access the centres by foot, bike or car and NHS Lothian is working with taxi drivers to ensure those who can not drive can access these facilities.
It comes after it emerged last week that a new drive-through testing centre has been set up at Edinburgh Airport for key workers who are self-isolating and showing Covid-19 symptoms, or anyone who lives in a key worker’s household and is showing symptoms.
The new facility at Edinburgh Airport is part of a growing number of sites across the UK set up to test frontline NHS staff by the UK Government.
Testing was initially prioritised for those working in areas like critical care, emergency departments and ambulance services. However, as more laboratory capacity became available, the approach has been extended to community, mental health and primary care services, along with social care.
‘Reassurance for staff’
Dr. Alastair Leckie, director of occupational health services at NHS Lothian, said: “Our staff have told us time and time again that they want to be at work, helping patients and supporting colleagues. Testing provides reassurance for staff, it helps to get them back to work quicker, and reduces unnecessary periods of self-isolation.
“A monumental amount of work has been done in a short period of time to further expand our testing facilities, ensuring that we not only have more test sites, but that there are a range of options available in how staff can access these.”
While the Chalmers service was initially developed to support NHS staff testing, since April 5th it has also offered testing for health and social care staff working within the four immediate Health and Social Care Partnerships, as well as those employed by private care providers.
Allister Short, chief officer of the West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, said that not being able to access testing had been a huge concern and worry for health and social care staff who wanted to be at work supporting and caring for people.
Jackie Galbraith, principal of West Lothian College, said: “Since the start of the lockdown staff and students at West Lothian College have been working hard to help the NHS and key workers tackle the coronavirus. We donated all of our personal protective equipment to key workers, gave all of our food stock to local charities, and are working with partners to produce and distribute visors to frontline workers. Some of our staff and students have returned as practitioners to the health and social care sector, while others are volunteering to help people in need in local communities.
“With the launch of the new NHS Covid-19 testing station now our campus is being put to good use while college buildings remain closed to students and staff. We are very proud to play a part in reducing the impact of this pandemic.”
Dr Tracey Gillies, NHS Lothian medical director, said around 100 tests were currently being carried out every day at the Chalmers site and of those around 80 per cent had already tested negative for Covid-19.
She said: “Providing access to testing for NHS and health and social care staff is critical. It not only gives reassurance, but enables these staff, if they feel well enough, to return to work.
“I would like to say a big thank you to all of the teams that have worked together to enable these testing developments to happen. This work is just one example of how NHS
“Lothian is responding to the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but it encapsulates and illustrates the drive, determination, responsiveness and hard work that all our staff are demonstrating on a daily basis.”