New technology to help protect Doncaster hospital patients from flu

Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

This winter Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals is using a new technology that tests patients arriving with respiratory problems for the flu virus, and provides the results in minutes rather than the two days the current test can take.

Patients arriving at the Acute Medical Unit at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and the Assessment Treatment Centre at Bassetlaw Hospital showing flu-like symptoms will have a simple throat swab which is tested and the results provided to hospital staff in minutes.

Flu is extremely contagious and can be deadly for vulnerable patients, especially those who have not had their flu jab. Being able to diagnose the virus quickly when the patient first arrives in hospital is vital to limit the spread of the infection and for staff to start treatment without delay.

Kate Carville, Head of Nursing for the Emergency Care Group, said: “Many patients arrive with breathing problems which may or may not be flu. Being able to get a quick diagnosis is excellent so that we start the patient on the right course of treatment immediately. If a patient tests positive for influenza we isolate them and take precautions to reduce the infection spreading to others in the hospital. Knowing in minutes rather than days which patients do and don’t have flu means we can use the isolation rooms as efficiently as possible through the winter months.”

The new technology called Alere-i was given a thorough ‘road test’ by the Trust’s clinical research team last winter in a clinical study involving over 200 patients. The clinical trial took place between 8 December 2014 and 27 March 2015. Patients were approached and selected to take part in the study by the Trust’s research nurses and nurses from the Clinical Research Network. Other patients were selected from clinical teams within the Trust through a dedicated bleep system.

Two swabs were taken from inside the patient’s throat by the research nurses. One sample was sent for testing to an external laboratory with a two to three day turnaround. The second swab was tested by the research nurses within the hospital using Alere-i. Results were provided in 10 minutes and confirmed whether the patient had tested positive or negative for the flu virus.

Richard Parker, Director of Nursing, Quality and Midwifery, said of the trial: “This demonstrates how important research and clinical trials are within the hospital, to help impact and improve the care we can offer to our patients in such a short period of time. Running the clinical trial last winter is already helping to reduce the spread of infection and protect our patients and staff this winter.

“I would however encourage patients and staff who are eligible to have the flu vaccination to ensure they have it – that is the best way for people to protect themselves from the flu virus.”