Issue affecting some positive COVID-19 test results for some inpatients at Musgrove Park Hospital

All quotes attributable to Dr Daniel Meron, Chief Medical Officer for Somerset NHS Foundation Trust:

“The NHS is testing patients for COVID-19 when they are first admitted into a hospital as inpatients so that we can care for them appropriately and minimise the potential for COVID-19 to spread within healthcare settings.

“From around 27 May we began to see an increase in the number of inpatients at Musgrove Park Hospital who were testing positive for COVID-19 and we were working with public health colleagues to understand the cause of this.

“On Thursday 4 June one of our vigilant laboratory managers noticed an unusual increase in the number of positive test results recorded by the laboratory’s fast track machine. The laboratory moved quickly to retest on a second machine the swabs that it still held that had tested positive on the fast track analyser. This showed that it had reported some false positive results.

“The laboratory is conducting a full investigation to understand what has caused this. Early indications are that it was potentially caused by a change in the kind of swabs that were in use from 27 May, coinciding with the increase in positive test results that we recorded from that date.

“We have therefore contacted the 78 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 after their swabs were analysed on the fast track machine between 27 May and 4 June to explain to them what has happened and that it is possible that they may have been incorrectly diagnosed, to understand the impact this may have had on them, to offer them subsequent testing and to say how sorry we are.

“We have also forensically checked to see if those particular swabs were used before 27 May and we have found that a small number may have been. Therefore, as a precaution, we are in the process of contacting the 69 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 having tested positive on the fast track machine from 7 May when the machine came into use and the 27 May.

“We understand that this issue may concern patients and families and want to publically apologise to them and thank them for being so understanding. We can also reassure them, and members of the public, that patients who test positive for COVID-19 are cared for in single rooms or in intensive care to the highest infection control standards, that we have notified the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the incident, and that to our knowledge this machine is the only one of its kind in use in the South West.

“We are contacting everyone who is affected so please do not worry if you do not hear from us. Please continue to follow the advice you receive from your healthcare professional and the national advice to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

“Once again, our heartfelt apologies go to all those patients and their families who are affected.”