Support for Royal College of Pathologists’ COVID-19 testing strategy

Dr Tom Lewis, Dr Marion Wood & Dr Martin Myers, GIRFT's three clinical leads for pathology

The Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) pathology clinical leads have welcomed the publication of the Royal College of Pathologists document COVID-19 testing: a national strategy.

In a statement, the programme’s three clinicians – Dr Tom Lewis, Dr Marion Wood and Dr Martin Myers – said:

“The pathology community has responded at pace to deliver the diagnostic support for the SAR-CoV-2 PCR swab tests and antibody tests, and for that it should be congratulated.

“The data on diagnostic testing GIRFT has gathered over recent years has shown the crucial importance of seeing the test in the context of the entire diagnostic pathway. We need to ensure tests are done on the right people, at the right time, and that results are available to clinicians in ways that helps them to do their work.

“There is no doubt that the pace with which the diagnostic response to COVID-19 had to be delivered means that we are left with problems in some of these areas. This leads to unwarranted variation in patient care and the support we can give to other services, such as track and trace. 

“The seven principles recommended by the Royal College of Pathologists will ensure that our diagnostic service for COVID-19 responds to the needs of patients and clinicians, irrespective of where it is delivered.

“We should not see success through the narrow view of what happens inside a laboratory – it can only be judged by whether that testing achieves its aim of improving our response to the pandemic. At present there is too much fragmentation of delivery, and this needs urgent rectification. 

“We also share the concerns on the sustainability of the testing infrastructure and welcome the call that the NHS, with partners, will need to build sustainable capacity for the long term to deliver a co-ordinated and integrated testing service.

“The Royal College of Pathologists document is supported by multiple professional societies and this alliance of thought is welcomed. 

“This document set out the strategic direction for COVID-19 testing and should be followed in order to reduce unwarranted variation and a fragmentation in the diagnostic service and quality infrastructure.”

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