Emergency Departments in North Wales are taking part in a study to assess the effectiveness of tests that may give doctors COVID-19 results within minutes rather than hours.
The Facilitating Accelerated Clinical Evaluation of Novel Diagnostic Tests for COVID-19 (FALCON) study aims to find out how accurate new and faster tests are so that patients and staff can be cared for as safely as possible.
The current tests rely on a lengthy laboratory process to detect the presence of the virus. There are limited numbers of rapid tests and some test results take up to 48 hours, which makes safe and effective care more difficult to provide.
Principal Clinical Biochemist, Dr Sharman Harris, said: “There are limitations to the current tests available, it can take up to 48 hours for a result and the accuracy is not well understood and tests taken at the bedside may provide additional capacity to support current testing pathways.
“The study aims to find out how accurate current tests are.”
The study is being conducted by researchers across the United Kingdom with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust acting as the sponsor for the study. The study has been set up in Wales through Health and Care Research Wales, with five health boards taking part.
Staff at both Ysbyty Gwynedd and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Emergency Departments are taking part in the study.
Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Dr Pete Williams, said: “The FALCON study could mean that clinicians can make fast, accurate decisions about a patient’s care within minutes.
“That can include decisions around which wards a patient can receive care in and improve the flow through the hospital.
“It will be a real game changer for us to help keep that steady stream moving through our department.
“Currently we can wait up to four hours to get a test result back. This means patients waiting longer in the department until a decision is made where they require ongoing care in another part of the hospital.
“These new tests will help us to remove these pressures and will allow us to make those rapid decisions.”
Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Glan Clwyd Hospital, Dr Seramanperuman Sivaraman, who is part of the team that has recruited around 40 patients for the study, added: “The Emergency Department thrives on fast and accurate decisions supported by bedside investigations, which could be easily accessible 24/7.
“The FALCON study which fits in with the above criteria would help us to use our resources appropriately.”
Patients over 18-years-old with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection are invited to participate in the study.
When a patient agrees to be part of the study, additional swabs from the nose and throat are taken. Information is also taken about their health that would be entered into a secure study database.
“We are really pleased to be part of this study at both of our Emergency Departments. We began the study at the beginning of Autumn and hopefully we will start to recruit more patients into it as time goes on.
“I would like to thank the Point of Care teams, Research and Development Team, Blood Sciences department staff and Public Health Wales at Ysbyty Gwynedd and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd who have worked tirelessly on this research to enable the health board to be involved.
“The Point of Care team continue to support the set up, implementation and day to day running of the machines and team manager Marge Everall hopes to roll out the new analysers at all sites including Wrexham Maelor in January,” added Dr Harris.
Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales, said:
“Finding an effective way to improve the speed of testing for COVID-19 is a key part of the research taking place right now in Wales.
“This faster test – alongside the vaccines that are being developed and other therapies – could help make a real difference to how we care for people with the virus.”