Covid test result delays ‘very disruptive’ for island residents

People in Shetland have been left waiting four to five days for a PCR result because of delays at a processing laboratory.

Covid test result delays ‘very disruptive’ for island residents iStock

People in Shetland have been left waiting four to five days for a PCR Covid test result because of delays at the processing laboratory.

NHS Shetland’s interim director of public health said the delays have been “very disruptive” for the islands’ residents.

Dr Susan Laidlaw made the claim amid the delays that stemmed from the Lighthouse Laboratory in Glasgow, where some isles tests are processed.

A meeting of the health board on Tuesday also heard that there is no capability in Shetland to assess whether positive PCR tests processed locally are of the Omicron variant.

At the moment priority PCR tests, which are more sensitive than lateral flow devices, are dealt with at the local laboratory in Lerwick.

Priority people include health and care staff, hospital patients and those with clinical needs.

Other tests are sent to Glasgow and results are generally coming back around 36 hours, or up to two days, later.

But Dr Laidlaw told a meeting of the Shetland health board on Tuesday about the delays associated with the Glasgow lab.

Many of those who have taken a PCR test due to Covid symptoms or contact tracing have to isolate until the results come back.

Dr Laidlaw stressed though that NHS Shetland has the capacity to maintain its service.

Speaking about Omicron, the public health official said positive tests are assessed for the variant in Glasgow, not Shetland.

They can be checked for the likelihood of Omicron before genome sequencing can give a firmer indication.

Dr Laidlaw also reiterated that generally PCR tests are for people who display Covid symptoms or who have had a positive lateral flow result.

Lateral flow tests are meant for people who are not showing Covid symptoms.

But at the moment there is a national supply issue which is affecting quantities of tests available.

A spokesperson for NHS Shetland said there are still some supplies available at the Test and Protect centre at the Greenhead Base in Lerwick, and more are on order.

Health and social care workers, school staff/secondary pupils and anyone else who get them through work should not use the community routes to obtaining tests.