However, given challenges to capacity at the time, and increasing numbers of patients presenting with symptoms of the illness, this only allowed for around 50 swabs to be checked per day, and as cases rose so did the pressure on the testing systems.
In a bid to increase the number of PCR samples that could be analysed for patients at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Bassetlaw Hospital and Montagu Hospital, Michael Leng, head biomedical scientist in microbiology at the trust, began exploring the possibility of setting up an in-house solution rather than sending tests away.
Within a few days, and with the successful procurement of cutting-edge technology, the first test for coronavirus took place on site on April 9, 2020.
Since then the team have tested more than 243,000 samples – more than 700 samples a day during peaks of activity.
The service continued to innovate, with colleagues able to utilise in-house testing for the illness, enabling them to return to work quicker if a negative result was returned.
Rapid testing stations were installed from January 2021, creating extra screening capacity with results returning in around 13 minutes.
The trust’s director of infection, prevention and control, Ken Agwuh, said: “On behalf of both our colleagues at the trust, as well as the people of Doncaster and Bassetlaw, I want to thank our microbiology team, as well as our wider pathology service, for their hard work throughout the past two years.
“One of the key breakthroughs during the early stages of the pandemic was ensuring we had consistent and accurate detection of the disease, as soon as possible, ensuring we could triage patients appropriately and reducing any possibility of cross-infection amongst our most vulnerable.
“Our colleagues within microbiology worked night and day throughout the first half of 2020, ultimately helping us to save lives during a time when we knew so little about this illness.
“While we often think of nurses and doctors when we speak of the NHS, our microbiology team are wonderful examples of those unsung heroes that our health service depends upon to deliver great care. To each and every one of them, not just locally but also nationally, I wish to express my thanks and appreciation.”