NHS trust adopts rapid flu test following nurse-led trial

Test informs clinicians within minutes whether a patient has flu

An NHS trust has begun using a rapid test for the flu virus after a successful trial.

Patients admitted to Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with respiratory problems are given a simple throat swab and hospital staff can know within minutes whether these individuals have flu.

Nurses at the trust can use a diagnostic system called Alere-I, which means swabs do not have to be sent to a laboratory for results, a process that can take two to three days. 

The trust’s clinical research team trialled the technology with more than 200 patients between December last year and March. Some of the trial participants were recruited by the trust’s research nurses.

The nurses took two swabs from patients’ throats and sent one to a laboratory. The other was tested with the Alere-I system to determine its accuracy.

The trust said being able to test patients for flu within minutes of their arrival in hospital will limit the spread of infection, and the risk of death in vulnerable people.

The trust’s head of nursing for the emergency care group Kate Carville said: ‘If a patient tests positive for influenza we isolate them and take precautions to reduce the infection spreading to others in the hospital.  

‘Knowing in minutes rather than days which patients do and don’t have flu means we can use the isolation rooms as efficiently as possible through the winter months.’

Director of nursing, quality and midwifery Richard Parker said: ‘Running the clinical trial last winter is already helping to reduce the spread of infection and protect our patients and staff this winter.  

‘I would however encourage patients and staff who are eligible to have the flu vaccination to ensure they have it – that is the best way for people to protect themselves from the flu virus.’ 

The test will be used on patients showing flu-like symptoms arriving at the acute medical unit at Doncaster Royal Infirmary and the assessment treatment centre at Bassetlaw Hospital.