Serving the North East, North Cumbria, Yorkshire and Humber, the laboratory, which is the latest expansion of the Government’s national Test and Trace programme, will deliver high-volume, rapid turnaround of COVID-19 tests.
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.
In addition to the Lighthouse laboratory, which will be based in Gateshead, there will also be a specialist innovation lab at the Helix site in Newcastle, tailored to develop new approaches for the next stage of COVID science and beyond.
COVID hub will be part of national Test and Trace
The integrated COVID hub will link testing and results into clinical data systems used by hospitals and will be part of the national Test and Trace, as well as increasing local resilience for rapid outbreak response.
The project is a partnership between the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle City Council, together with public health teams, local universities and industry, and will build upon Newcastle Hospitals’ international reputation for life sciences and innovation, and its strong track record for delivering projects on this scale.
Creation of 1,100 public sector jobs on Tyneside
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 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 we are in the strongest position to deal with the ongoing pressures of the pandemic.”
Launch expected in December
The dedicated hub is expected to launch in December and will include:
- An industrial-scale Lighthouse laboratory on the River Tyne at Baltic Park in Gateshead, which could process up to 80,000 tests per day once fully operational. Results reporting will be integrated into the national Test and Trace system 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 labs;
- Support for integrated management, analytics, tracing and response to help identify patterns of spread and outbreaks, working with partners to deliver optimal COVID control as close to home as possible;
- 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.
As one of 11 Good Practice Network councils contributing to national thinking on testing and data policies, Newcastle City Council has worked closely with Newcastle Hospitals to develop the proposal for this regional facility.
Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council said: “Throughout this pandemic the strength of the partnerships has shone brightly and the co-operation between our hospitals, council and universities has seen this innovative plan develop quickly.
“Crucially this investment will bring 1,100 high-quality jobs to Tyneside; once again highlighting that Newcastle is a modern, digital first city that has world class infrastructure, talent and technology to deliver these developments.
“We know that there are difficult times ahead and many sectors across the region will be impacted; providing new opportunities to our residents and investment in the city are key aspects of our recovery from the pandemic.
“Newcastle is an ambitious, resilient city and announcements like this will help our city bounce back from the pandemic.”
Eugene Milne, Newcastle’s Director of Public Health, said: “This new facility will bring together the expertise of public health, the NHS and our universities. The work done here will play a critical role not only in dealing with COVID-19 but also to support work to identify, prevent and deal with any future pandemics.”