Hospitals in Scotland are rolling out new single tests to identify whether patients are infected with Covid-19, flu or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).
The new three-in-one “multiplex tests” will be used when patients arrive showing respiratory symptoms at some emergency departments and assessment units.
They have been introduced with £5 million of Scottish Government investment.
They provide an advantage over “multi-target testing” which requires two or more tests to be carried out – one for Covid-19 and a second for other viruses such as flu A, flu B and RSV.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The introduction of these new tests is an important step to help protect our NHS staff and patients, as services remobilise and we learn to live with the virus.
“The results will help hospital staff assess the treatment and placement of patients which should help accelerate patient flow through the system. It will also play a key role in avoiding healthcare associated infections and co-infection.
“It would be a mistake to think that the successful delivery of the vaccination programme means testing becomes less important.
“Testing will continue to play a vital role in our drive to bring down new cases of Covid-19 and break off future chains of transmission.”
The fastest multiplex tests will see results provided within two hours and will be prioritised for emergency admissions to assist with patient placement and treatment. Other laboratory-based tests may take between 90 minutes and eight hours for the results to come through.
All asymptomatic patients, staff and citizens will still be tested for SARS CoV-2 only and this will constitute the majority of testing in Scotland.
Decisions on the use of rapid diagnostic testing will be taken by NHS Boards and may vary depending of factors such as the size of the hospital and the proximity of the Emergency Department to the laboratory.