Aberdeen-based TAC Healthcare Group has rolled out the latest in COVID-19 testing technology, from UK-based life sciences company, LumiraDx, in a bid to help stop the spread of the virus.
The innovative new test kits, which are small and highly portable, can detect the COVID-19 antigen protein from a nasal swab, producing results in just 12 minutes. This is a significant improvement on existing devices, which provide results from lab-based tests in up to 12 hours.
Thirty of the new, rapid testing instruments have been delivered to TAC’s dedicated test centre in the North East of Scotland, where they are now fully operational; enabling the company to deliver even faster, accurate results to individuals working in the oil and gas, maritime and professional sports sectors, including players from Aberdeen Football Club.
TAC’s investment reflects growing support for mass testing, with the UK Government recently announcing a GBP 500 million funding package for quick result test trials and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, acknowledging the importance of testing in helping to break the chains of transmission of the virus. NHS Scotland also recently agreed to purchase 300 machines and a minimum of 500,000 tests from LumiraDx.
TAC Healthcare is among the first companies worldwide to deploy these innovative, new “lab-in-a-box”-style kits for COVID-19 testing, with Ken Park, Clinical Director, saying, “Since 2018, we have been focused on bringing together transformational healthcare technologies and services, with this latest investment in LumiraDx’s Smart Diagnostic Platform a continuation of that journey.”
“One of our ambitions is to relieve some of the pressures facing public sector healthcare, which has undoubtedly been put under significant, additional strain by the pandemic. Through ground-breaking technologies like this, we are enhancing our existing test capabilities, as well as helping to keep coronavirus out of the North Sea and providing positive results into the national Test and Protect team. In terms of asymptomatic or at-risk testing, we have done more than 48,000 tests to date, and have shared our data with public health. When you are dealing with a new virus like this, that type of information sharing is crucial in building a better understanding of how to respond,” continues Park.
From 100 tests a week at the start of the pandemic, TAC is now doing more than 4,000 per week, the result of increased offshore manning levels and the commitment of organisations to ensure the wellbeing of their teams and wider communities.
Park says, “When the pandemic first hit offshore, operators dropped down to minimum safe manning levels, so there were far less people being tested. We are seeing things starting to get back to normal and have ramped up our testing capability accordingly. By offering accurate testing in minutes, we have a greater opportunity to avoid sending potential carriers onto an asset or vessel where, in those types of an enclosed spaces, the virus could easily spread and cause the whole operation to shut down.”
“Previously, workers have had to spend 2 days in a hotel room by themselves. With this new technology, they can come in for a test from 5:45 am and be back at the heliport ready to go offshore, armed with their results, that same morning. It’s far more efficient and cost-effective, as well as being less disruptive for the worker going offshore, as we don’t take away any of their time at home,” Park adds.
To accommodate the increased demand for its COVID-19 testing services, TAC has also expanded its footprint, with the purchase of a larger facility in Dyce in July. The building will also become the home of the company’s growing occupational health team and services, which include medical reception cover, biennial medical checks for offshore workers, the provision of offshore medics and topside cover, as well as the delivery of health and wellbeing programmes for office-based staff.