Flu test trialled in Norfolk could save NHS £24m a year

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. NNUH

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. NNUH - Credit: Nick Butcher

A new test that can diagnose a patient with flu in just 20 minutes could save the NHS up to £24m - and was tested at a Norfolk hospital.

Hospital patients usually have to wait for their tests to be sent to a laboratory and it can take several days to get the results, often meaning they are put into unnecessary isolation, significantly affecting the management of beds.

The new test - named cobas Liat - means medical staff who are worried about a patient's symptoms can take a single nasopharyngeal swab which is analysed by a machine.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) started using cobas Liat in January.

It found that out of 277 tests carried out after four months, 128 (46pc) came back positive, leading to more efficient use of side rooms and quicker diagnosis.

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The number of blocked beds dropped from an average of 11 pre-test to two post-test, and the mean number of patients with flu in a bay dropped from 12.3 to 2.7 during the period.

The trust estimates the amount of money it could save over a flu season by using the test is around £142,555, before the cost of the kits is accounted for.

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This includes £104,125 of bed days saved, £7,560 in blocked beds saved and £30,870 in avoided admissions.

Dr Emma Meader, clinical scientist at NNUH, said: 'We are delighted to be one of the first hospitals in the country to use this new test. It has had a big impact on the hospital by speeding up diagnosis and ensuring that patients who have flu are isolated and receive treatment faster. This helps to reduce the risk of other patients catching flu.

'The test makes it easier to manage beds and side rooms as patients who do not have flu often do not require isolation.'

Geoff Twist, managing director of manufacturer Roche Diagnostics, said: 'I am delighted that the cobas Liat test has received such good feedback, with it leading to clear and significant reductions in the number of unnecessary admissions, blocked beds and bay closures.

'I am particularly happy that this helps us quickly relieve the stress for people of not knowing whether themselves or a loved one has the flu, and swiftly enabling their medical care.'

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