New technology being trialled in rural Shropshire and Powys could reduce the need for lengthy and unnecessary trips to hospital.
A new “Point of Care Testing (POCT) Pack” means tests that formerly could only be carried out in hospital laboratories can now be performed in patients’ homes. And the results can be known in the space of minutes rather than days.
The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) and Shropdoc – the local GP out-of-hours service provider - have developed a pilot project that will enable a range of testing to be carried out on-the-spot.
The POCT-Pack will soon be trialled in the community. It features blood tests for anaemia, diabetes control, inflammation/infections, kidney function, acute heart disease and deep vein thrombosis. The results of these tests are available quickly for clinicians and can be forwarded wherever else they may be needed quickly and securely.
It is expected to deliver the following benefits:
• Treatment can begin more quickly thanks to an earlier diagnoses
• A range of new community settings being made available for testing
• Fewer unnecessary patient journeys to A&E, hospital or GP surgeries
• Saving money and freeing up time for clinicians
• Freeing up hospital laboratory time for more complex testing
The pilot is being led by Dr Simon Chapple of Shropdoc. He said: “Advances in technology mean a range of diagnostic equipment can be quite easily carried around by a GP or other clinician.
“Frequently an out-of-hours doctor called to an unwell patient in the middle of the night will have to decide if they need emergency admission. Some of these tests can help them make that decision quickly and safely. Nothing like it has been available before.
“For more routine testing, previously a patient would need to travel to a surgery or hospital to have the sample taken. The sample would need to be transported to a hospital laboratory by road, and the results could a couple of days to come back if they were considered non-urgent.
“The new equipment – known as a POCT-Pack – can deliver exactly the same results within minutes. This can drive real improvements in diagnoses, treatment and monitoring.”
The trial will be carefully monitored and assessed, and further resources will be made available to GPs and nurses before a wider rollout.
SaTH is already supporting the POCT pilot in Telford and Powys. If the pilot proves successful it will be expanded across more areas.
Dr Julian Povey, a GP in rural Shropshire and Chair of Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group said:
“Organisations working together and caring for patients closer to home is the future of the NHS. Point of Care Testing is an important step forward, and should deliver real results for the area.”
View from the laboratory
Katherine Richmond, Lead Principal Biochemist at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) said:
“The laboratories at SaTH provide testing facilities for the whole of the county, as well as a large part of Powys.
“Wherever a patient is - whether in hospital or at their GP - we receive their blood and urine samples and analyse them so that the vast majority of results are available within a few hours.
“However getting those samples to the laboratory takes time. Sometimes doctors need test results available immediately to make a decision on how to treat the patient or whether they need admission to hospital.
“So what’s needed is a laboratory closer to home, and that’s what POCT can deliver. The laboratory aims to support the clinicians by helping them choose equipment which is robust enough to be carried around, also ensuring the results and testing is every bit as reliable as the ones carried out at the central laboratories.
“We are also designing the system so that those results will be available to the hospital doctors if the patient is transferred or to the patients’ GP if they are not. Part of the project is to ensure that, across the county, the same POCT model is used.
“Ultimately, our aim is to use the outcome and learning from this project to support GPs who want to use POCT in their surgeries and community hospitals.”