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New 'Lighthouse' laboratory to strengthen regional resilience in fight against Covid-19

lighthouse lab

Ambitious plans for a multi-million pound regional 'COVID' hub - the first of its kind in the country - have today been unveiled in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Serving the North East, north Cumbria, Yorkshire and Humber, the laboratory will deliver high-volume, rapid turnaround of COVID-19 tests, with the capacity to process up to 80,000 tests a day if needed.

This significant development, approved by Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, will strengthen the region's resilience and response in controlling coronavirus and create 1,100 public sector jobs on Tyneside.

As well as creating an integrated system for increased testing and tracing - which will include a new lab based in Gateshead - the hub will also include a specialist innovation lab at the Helix site in Newcastle, tailored to develop new approaches for the next stage of COVID science and beyond. This will place the region in a strong position to prepare for future infectious disease risks.

The integrated COVID hub will link testing and results into clinical data systems used by hospitals and will support NHS Test and Trace, as well as increasing local resilience for rapid outbreak response.

The partnership between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle City Council, together with public health teams, local universities and industry, is the first of its kind in the UK and could establish a blueprint for other parts of the country.

The project will build upon Newcastle Hospitals' international reputation for life sciences and innovation, and its strong track record for delivering projects on this scale.

Chief Executive Dame Jackie Daniel said: "This is an exciting and important investment in the North East, which will create 1,100 public sector jobs.

"The collective effort in combating the pandemic to date has been outstanding and owes much to the excellence of services, partnership working and also the public playing their part in minimising the spread of the virus.

"We know that effective testing and tracing will continue to be a key pillar of the national strategy to protect the NHS and save lives, as well as supporting the economy. Our integrated Covid hub will be a major step in ensuring the North East is in the strongest position to deal with the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, including responding to any future waves."

Expected to launch in December, the dedicated hub will include:

  • An industrial-scale Lighthouse laboratory on the River Tyne at Baltic Park in Gateshead, processing up to 80,000 tests per day for the population of the North East, north Cumbria and Yorkshire. Results reporting will be integrated into NHS Test and Trace and electronic care records, so they are immediately available to individuals who have been tested, as well as public health and clinical staff.

The lab will supplement and work closely with existing NHS labs across North East, Yorkshire and Humber to optimise capacity and rapid turnaround of results.

  • Support for integrated management, analytics, tracing and response for the North East to help identify patterns of spread and outbreaks, working with partner councils and NHS Trusts to deliver optimal COVID control as close to home as possible - and developing links with partners in Yorkshire and Humber for similar, integrated provision.
  • A dedicated innovation lab with the flexibility to accommodate new technologies and infection control processes in developing the next stage of Covid science, including a specialist lab at Newcastle Helix tailored for the commercialisation of innovative scientific discovery.

Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, said:

"This is particularly welcome news, not just for Gateshead and Newcastle but for the entire region which will benefit from the extra testing capacity to help control the spread of coronavirus. As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are significant problems with the current testing system which is impacting on families, school and businesses.

"The new lab and the high-quality jobs it will bring to the area will not only improve our health resilience but our economic resilience too and this announcement cannot have come soon enough."

Latest Covid restrictions for Gateshead residents

lighthouse lab
17 September 2020

Ambitious plans for a multi-million pound regional 'COVID' hub - the first of its kind in the country - have today been unveiled in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Serving the North East, north Cumbria, Yorkshire and Humber, the laboratory will deliver high-volume, rapid turnaround of COVID-19 tests, with the capacity to process up to 80,000 tests a day if needed.

This significant development, approved by Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, will strengthen the region's resilience and response in controlling coronavirus and create 1,100 public sector jobs on Tyneside.

As well as creating an integrated system for increased testing and tracing - which will include a new lab based in Gateshead - the hub will also include a specialist innovation lab at the Helix site in Newcastle, tailored to develop new approaches for the next stage of COVID science and beyond. This will place the region in a strong position to prepare for future infectious disease risks.

The integrated COVID hub will link testing and results into clinical data systems used by hospitals and will support NHS Test and Trace, as well as increasing local resilience for rapid outbreak response.

The partnership between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle City Council, together with public health teams, local universities and industry, is the first of its kind in the UK and could establish a blueprint for other parts of the country.

The project will build upon Newcastle Hospitals' international reputation for life sciences and innovation, and its strong track record for delivering projects on this scale.

Chief Executive Dame Jackie Daniel said: "This is an exciting and important investment in the North East, which will create 1,100 public sector jobs.

"The collective effort in combating the pandemic to date has been outstanding and owes much to the excellence of services, partnership working and also the public playing their part in minimising the spread of the virus.

"We know that effective testing and tracing will continue to be a key pillar of the national strategy to protect the NHS and save lives, as well as supporting the economy. Our integrated Covid hub will be a major step in ensuring the North East is in the strongest position to deal with the ongoing pressures of the pandemic, including responding to any future waves."

Expected to launch in December, the dedicated hub will include:

  • An industrial-scale Lighthouse laboratory on the River Tyne at Baltic Park in Gateshead, processing up to 80,000 tests per day for the population of the North East, north Cumbria and Yorkshire. Results reporting will be integrated into NHS Test and Trace and electronic care records, so they are immediately available to individuals who have been tested, as well as public health and clinical staff.

The lab will supplement and work closely with existing NHS labs across North East, Yorkshire and Humber to optimise capacity and rapid turnaround of results.

  • Support for integrated management, analytics, tracing and response for the North East to help identify patterns of spread and outbreaks, working with partner councils and NHS Trusts to deliver optimal COVID control as close to home as possible - and developing links with partners in Yorkshire and Humber for similar, integrated provision.
  • A dedicated innovation lab with the flexibility to accommodate new technologies and infection control processes in developing the next stage of Covid science, including a specialist lab at Newcastle Helix tailored for the commercialisation of innovative scientific discovery.

Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, said:

"This is particularly welcome news, not just for Gateshead and Newcastle but for the entire region which will benefit from the extra testing capacity to help control the spread of coronavirus. As we have seen over the last few weeks, there are significant problems with the current testing system which is impacting on families, school and businesses.

"The new lab and the high-quality jobs it will bring to the area will not only improve our health resilience but our economic resilience too and this announcement cannot have come soon enough."

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