Covid-19 Testing to Dramatically Increase in Orkney

Alex Scarth

Following on from NHS Orkney’s announcement last week that testing was now being done on the Island, rather than sent to mainland laboratories, there is now significantly more testing planned with much faster turn around times.  

Previously, only patients admitted to the Balfour hospital or key NHS and social care workers could be tested. This made our local prevalence of Covid-19 look low. However many locals have come forward on social media to complain that they had been told they “likely had the virus” but that testing was not available to them.

Will the Scottish Government’s planned increased testing help to deliver more accurate statistics for Orkney?

NHSO, following advise from the Scottish Government, will now be swabbing symptomatic care home residents as well as new residents to care homes in the hope it will reduce the risk to our most vulnerable patients.

Patients being discharged from hospital will need two negative swabs before they can go to a care home bed.

Symptomatic care home staff, as well as other carers and NHS workers, continue to be able to get swabbed through the Covid Assessment Centre.

With Orkney being over ninety minutes from one of the four national drive through testing centres, increased testing will be achieved through testing kits being sent to patients and then posted to centralised laboratories. Though, NHSO, OIC, SAS, and third sector care staff will continue to be tested and processed locally.

The Government has also announced “Enhanced surveillances” swabbing, where health boards will be asked to swab set numbers of patients with mild or moderate symptoms to monitor disease prevalence. These kits will be processed centrally and not in the Orkney laboratory.

Will the increase in testing confirm the local suspicion that Orkney’s statistics do not reflect the true extent the virus is having locally? Or will it show that we continue to be lucky with low infection rates? Either way, as lockdown restrictions are lifted the risks will increase. The devastating effects the virus has had on our local economy and health will continue to affect us for years to come.

Local GP, Dr Sarah Stevenson, explained that: “Although numbers currently being seen locally are still low, we have been advised that we will not see our peak until mid May. Staff remain very thankful to members of the public who continue to follow the Government’s advice and maintain strict social distancing. Although numbers are low in Orkney, we must not start to be complacent.”

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