Every Sunderland and South Tyneside hospital patient tested for coronavirus before leaving, vow health chiefs

Every patient admitted to hospital in Sunderland and South Tyneside should be tested for coronavirus before they leave, NHS chiefs have promised.

A laboratory technician wearing full PPE (personal protective equipment) cleans a test tube containing a live sample taken from people tested for coronavirus.
A laboratory technician wearing full PPE (personal protective equipment) cleans a test tube containing a live sample taken from people tested for coronavirus.

Thousands of COVID-related deaths and infections were linked to cases transferred out of care facilities early in the pandemic, as bosses attempted to clear wards.

But care leaders now insist virus screening has been adopted among ‘standard operating procedures’ at Sunderland Royal Hospital and South Tyneside District Hospital for anyone receiving treatment.

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“We test patients, first of all, before they come into the organisation, if they’re on an elective pathway for an operation,” said Peter Sutton, accountable emergency officer at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), which runs both hospitals.

“If you come in as an emergency, clearly you get tested in the organisation as you’re admitted.

“You’re then tested every seven days if you’re an inpatient and then before discharge to make sure we can pass all the relevant information across to care homes.

“That is in place throughout the organisation and has been for a number of months now.”

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Sutton was speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

According to figures presented to the panel, the trust has seen 894 patients admitted to its hospitals with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, but currently has just one COVID positive inpatient under treatment.

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Social care bosses for Wearside also insisted better coronavirus screening in care homes had helped slash the infection risk, although it is yet to be eliminated entirely.

“We know a lot more about the virus now,” said Graham King, chief operating officer at Sunderland Care and Support, an SCC-owned care provider.

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“In the early days the extent of things like asymptomatic spread in care homes wasn’t known and how the virus transfers.

“While there’s been no new [COVID-19] cases in the last few weeks, there have been one or two in recent months and that has been picked up in the regular testing programme.

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“Hopefully we won’t get a second wave anywhere near the same size and scale of wave one.”

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