NHS Shetland will be opening a new coronavirus testing centre in Lerwick in June.
Work is already underway on the testing centre in the Brevik carpark, which will see the current service moved from the Gilbert Bain Hospital carpark and allow swabs to be taken without the patient leaving the car.
NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said that only certain people will be swabbed, including those referred for occupational health, public health or other clinical reasons, and stressed that the centre should not be confused with ‘drive-through’ facilities on the mainland that form part of the UK government scheme testing programme.
All swabs will be analysed in the lab at the hospital.
“The facility in the Brevik carpark builds on the previous service delivered at the Gilbert Bain Hospital car park and is focused on pre-booked patient swabbing,” said Mr Dickson. “Moving this service to the Brevik carpark allows some shelter for the nurses so that the swab can be taken without the patient leaving their car and it has the benefit of freeing up space in the hospital car park as services look to restart in the coming weeks and months.”
“On the UK mainland there are a number of drive-through places people can go to for a swab under this scheme,” said Mr Dickson. “We have explored this model but due to travel links and the need to get samples to the lab in Glasgow in a controlled manner we are not able to replicate this service in Shetland.”
NHS Shetland had worked hard with the UK and Scottish governments to find a solution to this, according to Mr Dickson, and will be offering a self-swabbing kit where testing kits are brought to patients’ homes.
“This has been very challenging to get up and running due to a number of technical and logistical issues. We can say at this point that people will be able to self refer to the scheme in order to access a swab kit,” the health chief said.
“They will undertake the swab themselves at home, and the swabs will be collected for return to the new Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow for analysis and results. We will shortly be letting the public have more details about how this will work in practice but it remains a top priority for the Board.”
“Once this scheme is in place, anyone over the age of five who develops any of the three main symptoms of COVID-19 – new continuous cough, high temperature or loss/change of sense of taste or smell – will be able to be tested.”