08/01/2021 | Press releases

Volunteers pack thousands of test kits to help with demand

Hospital volunteers have been helping pack thousands of Coronavirus (COVID-19) swab test kits to cope with the demand.

The volunteer team has packed more than 100,000 swab tests over the last few months after they were redeployed to help as the demand increased.

The team, made up of 10 volunteers, are currently packing 2,000 test kits a week. Each kit includes two sample bags (as double bagging is required for COVID-19 swabs), the test swab, vial of reagent, decontamination wipe and a request form.

Swabbing on site has been taking place for staff and patients who are due to come into the hospital for a procedure.

Volunteers Claire Rodie and Barry Wellham who have packed swab testing kits to help with demand
Claire Rodie and Barry Wellham next to packed crates containing the swab kits, ready for dispatch. Each crate holds 100 swabs. Claire is holding an individual swab pack and Barry has 10 in a transport bag.

Barry Wellham and Claire Rodie are two of the volunteers who have been helping.

Barry said: “I took early retirement at the beginning of last year and wanted to do my part in helping out at this bad time.”

Claire added: “I volunteer because I wanted to help the NHS at a time when it is under so much extra pressure. The flexible hours of this role are really helpful as I have young children at school.

“Working with others again is an added bonus, after many months spent working from home or on furlough.”

Carol Harvey, CSV lead and Coronavirus (COVID-19) swab packing manager, has been leading the team of volunteers working 50 hours a week to help. She said: “It is critical the patient swabs are packed correctly due to the highly infectious nature of the disease. Any swab that does not meet the stringent packing guidelines has the potential to delay the test result as the laboratory staff need to take additional safety measures to minimise the risk to themselves when unpacking and testing the samples.”

The team is working from Villa 6 at Colchester and took over in July when staff who were carrying out the task had to return to their usual roles.

Carol added: “The volunteer office was contacted and quickly provided some of the existing volunteers who were available to help with this work, as they were unable to carry out their usual volunteer roles on the wards due to the high risk of infection.

“We are currently providing swabs to both the Ipswich and Colchester sites for A&E, inpatients and the two swab stations.

“Swabs are also dispatched to Harwich, Clacton, Halstead, The Oaks hospitals, the SIREN trial as well as the wider NHS and the key worker community in Suffolk.”

Carol said it’s been an amazing support having the volunteers help and has meant demand for tests could be met.

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