The government have today announced the opening of a new regional mega-laboratory in Leamington Spa – scheduled to begin operations in early 2021 – which will increase UK COVID-19 testing capacity by 300,000 tests a day when operating at full capacity.
The new mega-lab will make use of recent innovations in medical diagnostics, using automation and robotics to process tests faster and at a lower cost, ultimately resulting in faster turnaround times for results and savings for taxpayers.
A second lab is also to be opened in Scotland, combined increasing the UK’s testing capacity by 600,000 additional tests a day.
The mega-labs will both represent the next generation of diagnostic facilities and stand as a long-term investment into the UK’s epidemic response infrastructure for the future.
Not only will the two labs be used to process COVID-19 tests, but the significant boost in diagnostic capabilities will be used for critical illnesses too, in an effort to close the gap in delayed diagnosis of illnesses such as cancer due to overrun medical services during the first wave of the pandemic.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock explained, the “mega labs are future-proofing our national infrastructure to respond to future epidemics and improving care for other diseases, such as cancer.”
Each mega-lab will need a workforce of up to 2,000 multi-skilled people to enable it to operate at full capacity 24 hours a day, generating local employment opportunities.
A recruitment drive has already begun in Warwickshire, with data scientists, lab technicians, administrators and more needed to help run the lab. Find out more here.
Talking about the new mega-labs, Hancock said: “We didn’t go into this crisis with a significant diagnostics industry, but we have built one, and these 2 mega labs are another step forward.
“Transforming the UK’s diagnostic facilities is not only essential to beating this virus, but it is necessary to build back better – so we are better prepared in future for testing on a massive scale.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to developing capacity within the NHS, five ‘lighthouse laboratories’ have been built across the country, with another opening next month.