Investment will speed up Covid-19 testing and introduce 24/7 labs

Public Health Wales’ laboratory service is to undergo a major transformation which will significantly increase its COVID-19 testing capacity, speed up testing turnaround times and allow regional labs to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The changes are made possible by nearly £32m worth of investment by Welsh Government, as announced by Health Minister Vaughan Gething

Changes to the service will include:

  • Extra staff and equipment for Public Health Wales’ regional laboratories based at University Hospital Wales, Cardiff, Moriston Hospital, Swansea and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Rhyl testing laboratories, so that they can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The creation of six Hot Labs at hospitals across Wales, which will have rapid, under four hour, testing equipment and new testing equipment for other conditions to free up staff to work on COVID-19 testing. They will operate from 08.00 – 22.00 seven days a week.

Announcing the investment, Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, said: 

“This investment will ensure we have the capacity in Wales to deliver our Test, Trace, Protect strategy to keep coronavirus under control and be ready for the winter.

“I hope we don’t need to use all the testing capacity this investment will create but we have to be prepared. The science tells us the virus will spread more quickly in the colder, wetter months so we can expect an increase in the spread later this year.

“This investment will increase our resilience and ensure our testing and contact tracing are robust enough to deal with whatever winter brings.”

Dr Tracey Cooper, Chief Executive of Public Health Wales, said: 

“This investment will allow us to make some fundamental changes to our laboratory services that will significantly increase their capacity and resilience, both in the context of the current pandemic and in the longer term. 

“We are already working behind the scenes to implement these changes and to recruit staff into the new roles made possible by this investment.”

While the current priority is the COVID-19 pandemic, the changes will improve turnaround times for other time critical tests including sepsis, antimicrobial resistance infections such as MRSA, and gastrointestinal infections like C difficile and Norovirus. 

Up to 160 new jobs will be created across the service as a result of the changes, which Public Health Wales has launched a recruitment drive to fill. 

Find out more about the vacancies.

David Heyburn, Programme Manager for Microbiology at Public Health Wales, said: 

“We current employ around 450 people and with these new posts we expect to have over 600 people working for us. “This investment will create a national infection service that will be the envy of many countries.”