A lab machine failure has seen a number of hospital patients given false positive coronavirus tests, it has emerged.
The NHS Trust behind Musgrove Park Hospital has issued a ‘heartfelt apology’ after some patients there were told they had tested positive for Covid-19 when, in fact, they may have been negative.
The hospital has not yet said whether those patients with wrong tests were put on to Covid-specific wards.
The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust says the fault was picked up on Thursday 4 June by a "vigilant laboratory manager" who noticed an "unusual increase in the number of positive test results for patients".
The teams quickly identified the faulty testing machine, and after testing the swabs again realised that it had reported some false positive results.
27 patients have so far been confirmed as being given the wrong diagnosis.
The trust says it will be contacting 147 people in total.
patients have so far been confirmed as being given the wrong diagnosis.
We are now in the process of contacting all those patients who were diagnosed as having coronavirus after their swabs were analysed in the faulty machine to explain to them what has happened and that it is possible they may have been incorrectly diagnosed, to understand the impact this may have had on them, to offer them subsequent testing and to say how sorry we are.
The laboratory is conducting a full investigation to understand what has caused this. Early indications are that it was potentially caused by a change in the kind of swabs that were in use from 27 May, coinciding with the increase in positive test results that we recorded from that date.
Dr Daniel Meron adds: "We are contacting everyone who is affected so please do not worry if you do not hear from us. Please continue to follow the advice you receive from your healthcare professional and the national advice to minimise the spread of COVID-19.
“Our heartfelt apologies go to all patients and their families who have been affected.”
All patients who test positive for Covid-19 when they arrive at the hospital are isolated on specific wards.
The fault has been blamed for huge increase in cases Somerset has seen in recent days.
Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health at Somerset County Council, says it leaves her team in a "better position" and "explain an awful lot of the quandary" over the increase in figures.
She adds: "Without these false positive cases we’re as confident as we can be that there hasn’t been an increase in new cases in Somerset and, in fact, the trend continues downwards, which is great news for all of us.
"We’ve actually only had three confirmed cases over the last four days, which is about in line with the way that our trajectory was showing.
“I want to really reassure Somerset residents that we continue to experience low levels of infection in this county, and long may it last, and that’s thanks to the efforts of the people in Somerset to make sure we stick to the measures around social distancing, hand-washing and isolation as soon as we or someone in our household experiences symptoms.”