Somerset COVID 19 test errors update

Following on from our report earlier today. Tests carried out for Musgrove Hospital, Taunton on patients with suspected COVID 19 were giving false positives.

In a clarification of their earlier statement Musgrove are now saying “From around 27 May we began to see an increase in the number of inpatients at Musgrove Park Hospital who were testing positive for COVID-19 and we were working with public health colleagues to understand the cause of this. On Thursday 4 June one of our vigilant laboratory managers noticed an unusual increase in the number of positive test results recorded by the laboratory’s fast track machine. The laboratory moved quickly to retest on a second machine the swabs that it still held that had tested positive on the fast track analyser. This showed that it had reported some false positive results.

Patients tested between those dates may have been given an incorrect diagnosis of having the COVID 19 virus. As a secondary issue, the statistics given out for infections across the county between those dates will necessarily be inaccurate.

Musgrove believe the error was caused by a change in the kind of swabs that were in use from 27 May. This coincided with an increase in positive test results that we recorded from that date.

A hospital spokesperson explained “We have therefore contacted the 78 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 after their swabs were analysed on the fast track machine between 27 May and 4 June to explain to them what has happened and that it is possible that they may have been incorrectly diagnosed, to understand the impact this may have had on them, to offer them subsequent testing and to say how sorry we are.

However the problem may now be more extensive than was first thought when details were given earlier today. The Musgrove spokesperson added “We have also forensically checked to see if those particular swabs were used before 27 May and we have found that a small number may have been. Therefore, as a precaution, we are in the process of contacting the 69 patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 having tested positive on the fast track machine from 7 May when the machine came into use and the 27 May.”

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