A rapid response to keep COVID-19 testing on line

Case Study | 22nd July 2020

Although the peak of hospital admissions for COVID-19 has passed in the UK, testing capacity continues to ramp up, placing sustained pressure on pathology and testing services.

In June 2020, an Envair engineer was on site in the molecular lab at Royal Stoke University Hospital conducting 12 month service checks of the Microbiological Safety Cabinets (MSCs) in use there when he noticed that a HEPA filter had failed on one of the Class I cabinets used for COVID-19 testing. This put the cabinet out of use and risked 500 samples per day going untested, because as an ACDP category 3 pathogen, it was not safe to test for the virus using anything other than a Class I system.


With the minimum lead time on a replacement HEPA filter being at least two weeks, the team swung into action to find a solution. Working in partnership with the main contractors Sodexo, Envair identified a partially built class I MSC Bio1+ at our factory in Haslingden, Lancashire. The hospital procurement team pulled out all the stops to approve the budget within hours and the manufacturing team at Envair were redeployed to complete the build, then wire and test the unit ready for same day despatch.

By 3.30pm, the MSC had been handed to Sodexo and after a sprint down the motorway, engineers from both companies began the installation and commissioning of the cabinet with it finally being handed over to the Trust just before midnight.

There were cheers from everyone when COVID-19 testing recommenced at 7am, with less than 24 hours downtime.

Christopher Turner, Estates Manager Environmental at Sodexo commented, “It was critical to get the COVID-19 testing capacity back on line as quickly as possible for the Trust and working as one team, Sodexo and Envair engineers mucked in together and got the job done. This was testament to our strong working relationship and a willingness to act rapidly to respond to an urgent client challenge.”

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