VOLUNTEERS at Colchester Hospital have been helping to pack thousands of Covid swab tests.

The team, made up of 10 volunteers, were deployed to help meet demand for tests.

They are packing 2,000 test kits a week to be sent to those needing an a test.

Each kit includes two sample bags, the test swab, vial of reagent, decontamination wipe and a request form.

The volunteer team has packed more than 100,000 swab tests over the last few months.

Swabbing has been taking place for staff and patients who are due to come into the hospital for a procedure.

Barry Wellham, one of the volunteers, said: “I took early retirement at the beginning of last year and wanted to do my part in helping out at this bad time.”

Fellow volunteer Claire Rodie added: “I volunteer because I wanted to help the NHS at a time when it is under so much extra pressure. The flexible hours of this role are really helpful as I have young children at school.

“Working with others again is an added bonus, after many months spent working from home or on furlough.”

Carol Harvey, coronavirus swab packing manager, has been leading the team of volunteers working 50 hours a week to help.

She said: “It is critical the patient swabs are packed correctly due to the highly infectious nature of the disease.

"Any swab that does not meet the stringent packing guidelines has the potential to delay the test result as the laboratory staff need to take additional safety measures to minimise the risk to themselves when unpacking and testing the samples.”

The team is working from Villa 6 at Colchester and took over in July when staff who were carrying out the task had to return to their usual roles.

Carol added: “The volunteer office was contacted and quickly provided some of the existing volunteers who were available to help with this work, as they were unable to carry out their usual volunteer roles on the wards due to the high risk of infection.

“We are currently providing swabs to both the Ipswich and Colchester sites for A&E, inpatients and the two swab stations.

“Swabs are also dispatched to Harwich, Clacton, Halstead, The Oaks hospitals, the SIREN trial as well as the wider NHS and the key worker community in Suffolk.”