Swabbing team HCP.jpgCommunity health care teams in north Cumbria have been carrying out a COVID-19 swabbing service to ensure the spread of the virus is monitored effectively. An amazing total of 5400 patients have been swabbed across sites in Maryport, Wigton and Solway including 4225 residential and nursing home residents.

The need for a community COVID 19 swabbing service became apparent soon after the first lockdown in April 2020 when a number of residential/ nursing homes in north Cumbria began to see outbreaks. Our local nursing teams rose to the challenge by undertaking swabbing which helps services monitor and manage the spread of the virus in their facilities and ensure residents are isolated appropriately.

Alison Bibby, senior lead nurse for Maryport & Wigton Day Units at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Developing and supporting the swabbing service has been a fantastic experience. Not a day has gone by when I have not been overwhelmed by the commitment, comradery, resilience and willingness to go the extra mile by staff across all sites, care groups and of all disciplines.”

As infection rates continued to rise the nursing teams also started supporting swabbing for those living in sheltered accommodation and assisted living residents.

The teams then expanded the service further to provide a pre-elective patient swabbing programme which started in Maryport Hospital in June 2020. This means that people who were booked in for planned treatment were tested for the virus to ensure that the whole pathway for these patients remained COVID free. In order to reduce unnecessary patient travelling and ‘make every contact count’ the service also accepted referrals to include taking blood samples for pre-operation testing and MRSA swabbing.

Alison added: “Our eager team of healthcare assistants at Maryport Hospital welcomed the opportunity to serve their community in its time of need. Clinics have been available seven days a week between 8am and 7.30pm. This programme also extended to Wigton Hospital in July 2020.”

As the demand for the service grew, an administration team were formed to support the service. In October, Solway Sexual Health Clinic in Carlisle provided the service to support patients attending the Cumberland infirmary’s Endoscopy unit offering a service closer to home for many.

Patient feedback for the service has been extremely positive with one patient saying: 

“I have had four or five swabs and each time it has been a very good and friendly experience. My appointment started on time and the procedure was followed exactly as had been explained to me. I found the staff to be very helpful.”

There has been a real team effort across the Trust with all three swabbing sites supported by Cumbria Blood Bikes who collect the samples at the end of each day and deliver them to the pathology labs at the Cumberland Infirmary, ensuring that they are processed and reported on in a timely manner. Community teams have worked collaboratively to enable the ongoing swabbing of residents across a range of establishments to support and assist our partners in local communities.  


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