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Covid-19 and haemostasis screening: the expected and the unexpected

Senior Biomedical Scientist Clare Wigley and colleagues take us through how their lab processes and workflow changed during the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early 2020, as news broke of COVID-19 cases being diagnosed across the UK, our laboratory began to prepare for an influx of patients. Being based at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, we knew that our hospital would be accepting early COVID-19 patients. We also knew that these people could be seriously ill, as we are one of six UK centres commissioned to provide adult respiratory extracorporeal membrane oxygen (ECMO) support. The little we knew about this new virus included reports of thrombosis and abnormal coagulation parameters.

Our laboratory is split into two sections – a high-throughput laboratory that deals with coagulation screening, known locally as the “routine laboratory”, and a specialist haemostasis service. However, “routine” was about to become far from routine.

We were advised that elective surgeries and outpatient clinics would be paused so that the trust could focus its resources on the pandemic because, as well as dealing with seriously ill patients, we also needed to prepare for changes to our workforce. With so much still unknown, the guidance at the time was that vulnerable staff would need to shield or work from home – something not entirely compatible with our usual laboratory work.

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Image credit | Science Picture Library

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